Plug N Play Driving

I’ve been an F1 fan for twenty years and I’ve watched the ultra high-tech components make their way onto the manufacturers’ lines. The introduction of KERS (Kenetic Energy Recovery System) into F1 eventually spawned the various types of hybrid vehicles we see today. Over a decade on and the electric methods of powering vehicles have improved, both in efficiency and the speed in which they can be charged.

Whilst the F1 white coat’s latest efforts have been introduced onto the 2014 cars, offering double the HP of KERS, I wonder how long it’ll be before we see the end of the racing combustion engine?

The fully electric car has proven its enormous torque and acceleration possibilities. Petrolheads criticize the lack of sound and the smell of burnt fuel, and whilst I’m a passionate petrolhead, I get excited at the true potential of all this clean power. No spanners, wrenches or skinned knuckles; just laptops, programs, leads and ports. Gone are the days of the grease embellished mechanic; in are the boffins and computer geeks. Instead of superchargers and turbos and all those expensive parts needed to make an engine more powerful, it’ll be a case of just downloading and installing a program.

The only real problems we face with the fully electric vehicle is the charging times needed to give the cells a full charge. I expect this will soon be fixed, with greater driving ranges possible and the ability to charge wirelessly – I really can predict a ‘plug n play’ car in the not so distant future.

It will probably be this simple too and I’m glad I’m at an age where I’ll experience the development of the fully electric car whilst having experienced two decades of the combustion engine.

The only thing putting a dampner on all this potentially amazing technology is… technology. It’s all very well being able to tweak power and torque levels with a laptop, but with GPS devices already finding their way into hire cars, company cars, and insurance companies using them to offer lower premiums, it won’t be long before we are all tracked. Speeding is of course illegal, but who doesn’t open up the taps once in a while? It would feel a bit too 1984 for my liking.

So who’s in for the future of electricity? Or would you prefer cars remained as fire-breathing and snorting petrol guzzlers?

I’m 70/30 in favour of petrol, but then I do like to gargle gas once in a while…



F1: All Those Knobs And Switches

I created this infographic for Motor Ward and it was almost cathartic reading up and listing what all this controls operated – mind blowing stuff.

1. Front wing flap activation

2. To engage neutral

3. Differential setting for exiting corners

4. Engine Rev Limiter

5. Course Front Flap Adjustment

6. KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) Discharge Unit

7. Recovery Strategy Menu

8. Engine Torque

9. Fuel Mixture Selection

10. Pre-selected Clutch Settings

11. Pit lane Limiter (100kph)

12. KERS activation

13. KERS Charge Adjustment – Gears Down (located behind)

14. Car To Pit Radio

15. Recovery Strategy Scrolling

16. Clutch Paddle

17. Recovery Strategy Accept

18. Engine Kill Switch

19. Clutch Biting Point Selection

20. Race phase Switches

21. Reverse

22. Oil Pump

23. Drink Pump To Feed Driver

24. Clutch Paddle

25. Fine Front Flap Adjustment

26. Menu Scroll

27. Gears Up + just to the right: Corner Entry Differential Setting
This took some research to actually find a fairly recent Ferrari F1 steering wheel. I believe this is from Fernando Alonso’s car, and whilst it is recent, technology is constantly moving in F1 so it may have been tweaked… but you get the general idea.

During an F1 race you don’t get to see what’s going on inside the cockpit; however, you do often catch the esoteric radio messages between driver and team.

These messages usually pertain to the multitude of controls on the complex steering wheel. Not only do F1 drivers have to contend with extreme G-forces, but lap after lap they are constantly analysing how the car feels. The tyres start to wear, temperatures and pressures change, and as the fuel burns away, the car becomes lighter. All these factors play a significant role in how the car handles – this means the driver requires an extremely technological steering wheel (costing more than an actual supercar) that can deal with all eventualities.

In the above Infographic, you can see from the amount of controls as to how complicated machine an F1 car is. To give you an idea of what exactly goes on inside the cockpit, we’ve numbered all the controls available to the driver and what they do to enable any car adjustments without having to pit.

So as you can see, the driver can make many mechanical adjustments whilst racing. Pit to car communications are vital in deciding strategy and how the tyres are performing, so the RADIO button is one of the important ones. The driver can even deploy a pump that feeds liquid through a pipe and into the driver’s helmet for re-hydration, extremely important in maintaining hydration and concentration in the stifling conditions.