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Electronics & Test
Indy Engines Still Pack a 700HP Punch
5/11/2012

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KV Racing Technology will use a Chevy engine in its Indy vehicle driven by Tony Kanaan.   (Source: Littelfuse)
KV Racing Technology will use a Chevy engine in its Indy vehicle driven by Tony Kanaan.
(Source: Littelfuse)

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naperlou
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Small engines
naperlou   5/11/2012 9:16:09 AM
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This is interesting.  These engines use lots of "standard" naterials and parts.  On the other hand, they are race engines, so they are tuned up to get maximum horsepower.  It is interesting that they are using the smaller block engines.  I understand that standardizing on engines cuts costs.  I would think though, that for a series that originates in the US would be more into the big block V8.  I expect that the cost would be lower with that type of engine. 

RICKZ28
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Re: Small engines
RICKZ28   5/14/2012 6:53:25 PM
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IndyCar has chosen to go with smaller displacement engines, this year allowing turbochargers with a slightly smaller displacement.  Cost containment is a major factor, and there is a cost limit to how much the teams will be charged for each engine...the same for the chassis.

As for "big bore" American racing...that's NASCAR.

Rob Spiegel
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Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
Rob Spiegel   5/11/2012 4:25:50 PM
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Nice article, Chuck. With all of the effort and dollars poured into the development of these high performance engines, is there any spillover into commercial and consumer engines? I would think and automaker would like to get more out of this than doing well at Indy.

Charles Murray
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Re: Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
Charles Murray   5/11/2012 6:44:13 PM
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That's a really good question, Rob. GM told us that that the tie-in between racing engines and production engines is very strong. A lot of the processes and procedures are carried over from the racing side to the production engine development side. Also, because much of the technology is now the same (i.e., overhead cams; four valves per cylinder; direct injection), both sides can benefit. GM also places an engineer on site at Ilmor Engineering, which engineers the race engine. O'Blenes told us: "Everything he learns will be brought back to help us work on our production products."

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
Rob Spiegel   5/14/2012 2:23:50 PM
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Thanks, Chuck. It sounds like Indy is a test kitchen for GM's production engines. I didn't realize the Indy engines shared so much with production engines. 

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
Scott Orlosky   5/19/2012 5:50:08 PM
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It seems that more horsepower out of a small engine means better fuel efficiency as well.  It would be interesting to know how fuel managment in race cars translates to fuel efficiency for everyday passenger vehicles.  I know lighter weight and aerodaynamics play a part, but what about the engines themselves.  Anyone have an insight into this?

DanSchwartz
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Re: Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
DanSchwartz   5/14/2012 3:46:21 PM
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Actually, Honda's HPD is used to train young engineers as part of their rotation program, as well as aid in their recruiting.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
Rob Spiegel   5/14/2012 4:12:43 PM
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So Honda's incoming engineers would actually work with an Indy team? I can certainly understand how that would enhance recruiting.

DanSchwartz
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Re: Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
DanSchwartz   5/14/2012 4:28:04 PM
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No, some of them stay in Santa Clarita

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tech Transfer to Consumer Vehicles
Rob Spiegel   5/15/2012 2:54:16 PM
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Even if the engineers are in Santa Clarita, it must be a charge to work on the engine of an Indy car.

MYRONB
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Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
MYRONB   5/13/2012 12:03:44 PM
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700 horsepower seems a lot, but is it?  These engines get these numbers by flowing a lot of fuel and air through the engine.  The real question is:  how efficiently is that fuel used?  Let's see a comparison of stock and various race engines with their brake horsepower per pound of fuel per hour to really judge these engines. Most gasoline engines are about 25% efficient, but I wonder how efficient the present-day Indy engine is?

 

Another comment: the way the Indy Car series is run, car construction and engine design is so tightly mandated that the "spectacle" is reduced to a "spec racer" series with virtually no room for creativity in these design areas. Gone are the exciting days when a chief mechanic could wave his "magic screwdriver" over the engine or chassis to wring out a few more miles per hour in qualifying. Now we have contrived rules to help make a "show."  How about setting a max (but reduced from the gumballs used today) tire width and a maximum front/rear wing area, and max engine displacement, and let the boys and girls have at it.  Reduced tire size and downforce-generating wings will mean the drivers will have to lift the throttle to round the turns and thus put driver skill back into the equation.  The cars of today have enough of that fabled down force to drive upside down (if you had an inverted road), thus drivers can and do drive flat-out around IMS's four turns.  So, let's put more of the driver into the show.  I truly love the beautiful Miller cars of the 1920s and 1930s, but their tremendous speed combined with running on steeply banked board tracks produced a high speed parade that left fans bored. Today, Indy cars run in a procession with passing mostly done during fuel and tire stops.  Is this racing?  Let's hear your thoughts....

 

Regards, Myron Boyajian

ttemple
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
ttemple   5/14/2012 8:15:32 AM
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At this point, I think the rules are driven by survivability of the driver.  NASCAR has the same issue.  They keep choking down the horsepower to a level that keeps the speeed at about 200 on the "super" speedways.  Today it might be fairly easy to create a car that would exceed 300 mph on the straights at Indy, but every wreck would kill the driver.  So, they are relegated to creating rules that keep the speed down to a relatively survivable 200-230 MPH.  This tends to make the competition rather boring at times.

Maybe it would be more interesting if they would opt for some kind of governor system that would simply limit the speed, and allow the teams to decide what power profile to use.  For example, some teams might go for a lower power, but higher mileage profile, others for brute acceleration, etc.  The high mileage teams would try to make up time by skipping pit stops, and the high power teams would try to make it up out of the corners, etc.

DanSchwartz
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
DanSchwartz   5/14/2012 4:07:50 PM
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Not quite on why the speed is strictly limited to 230 MPH: The real reason is that the Speedway can't get insurance if the cars go over 230.

There is also a secondary reason of driver "grey-out" when speeds hit 236 MPH at Texas, which is why the April 29, 2001 CART race was canceled at the last minute when the teams, engine builders (but NOT the chassis builders, who were left out) and Joe Heitzler & his cohorts couldn't reach an agreement on how to slow the cars down.

streetrodder
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
streetrodder   5/14/2012 11:32:39 AM
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Myron raises an interesting point, but it's bit more difficult to compare than expected.  Indy cars run on alchohol, not gasoline, so the power/fuel profiles are different.  It also affects cooling and lubrication, since alchohol burns cooleer and 'drier' than gas.

I've been fortunate in my hobby (check my label); one of my friends is a former Indy mechanic, so i know a tiny bit more than most.  He got out of it because of the changes in engine rules.  He builds engines and is independent - not much for him to do at Indy any more.  He spends his time building Bonneville engines and helping build the occaisional friend's personal engine - like mine (grin). 

DanSchwartz
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
DanSchwartz   5/14/2012 4:01:18 PM
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@Streetrodder: Actually, this year IndyCar switched fuels (again), this time to E85 racing fuel, which is 85% ethanol & 15% Sunoco gas of unknown octane, for an unknown combined octane. For the record, ethanol has an octane rating of 110.

In any event, I miss the smell of methanol while on pit lane :-(

By the way, is your engine builder friend Ed Pink?

streetrodder
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
streetrodder   5/14/2012 4:47:56 PM
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Hi Dan;

Sorry, no-one that famous (A Pink built engine for the rod - WOOO-HOOO!).

His name is Skip Berger, out of St. Louis.

RICKZ28
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
RICKZ28   5/14/2012 7:09:11 PM
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There is not enough down-force for the IndyCar drivers to be pedal-to-the-metal around the turns at Indianapolis.  The drivers must lift and negotiate the turn...or be in the wall!  Even with the new safer barriers around the turns, it's still a very hard hit when into the wall.  If the car does not handle well, all that power won't help the driver stay up to speed.

The fuel cell (tanks) are much smaller than yesteryear for safety sake.  A smaller fuel supply means more pit stops.

DanSchwartz
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
DanSchwartz   5/15/2012 3:07:59 PM
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There is not enough down-force for the IndyCar drivers to be pedal-to-the-metal around the turns at Indianapolis -- FALSE 

In fact, the cars are trimmed out to just the point where they can indeed go flat out all the way around the 2½ mile track, with in-cockpit adjustments made to the roll bar at different parts of the track to compensate for wind & track grip. In fact, in qualifying trim they run with a negative rear wing angle to take it right to the knife edge.

The drivers haven't been lifting in the turns since the early 1980's when ground effect cars were introduced by Jim Hall. (I've been going to the Indy 500 almost every year since 1967).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
Rob Spiegel   5/15/2012 5:03:45 PM
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Interesting, Dan. Given that the Indy cars can go full out through the entire loop, what constitutes advantage,? Is it the car? The driver? The star driver who can attract a good car?

DanSchwartz
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
DanSchwartz   5/15/2012 6:32:01 PM
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Rob, the differences between the cars are miniscule, and for the previous 11 years it was more like sharpening a pencil over and over, trying to get the very sharpest point. This is reflected in the diminishing returns the two red teams got for their cubic dollars, spending it in aero and (especially) suspension improvements.

This year, we have an all-new engine package and two new body kits from Dallara (basically low downforce for Indy & Fontana, higher downforce elsewhere (including Texas, to hold the speeds down below gray-out levels). The teams are busy with their aero & suspension tweaks; but this year, with the disruption from the new rules, you'll see the chance for the smaller experienced teams, like Panther, to do well.

Although the cars are loaded with instrumentation feeding back via telemetry to the pit wall, some of it still goes back to the driver & how well s/he can set up the car. What's more, although one would think that two (or even three or four) cars in a team should be set up identically; but in fact each driver has their differences & their preferences, as some may brake with their left foot & others brake with their right. Also, they may like slightly different setups, with a common difference the angle of front wheel caster.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
Rob Spiegel   5/16/2012 10:20:25 AM
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That's very helpful, Dan. So when it comes right down to it, what wins, the driver or the car? From your description, it sounds like the biggest factor is probably driver behavior.

Charles Murray
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
Charles Murray   5/15/2012 8:08:44 PM
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We'll have a post answering that question tomorrow, Rob. The driver plays a big role, but engineers can still tweak the dampers, geabox lubricants and coatings. Sounds minor, but Indy teams spend thousands of man-hours working on those variables.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
Rob Spiegel   5/16/2012 10:27:22 AM
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I look forward to the article tomorrow, Chuck. This is a good topic given the upcoming Indy race. The added info will make the race more interesting. 

Charles Murray
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Re: Engine efficiency & Indycar rules
Charles Murray   5/16/2012 6:50:31 PM
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I spoke too soon, Rob. The story will appear on Friday.

wb9ddf
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fuel economy
wb9ddf   5/14/2012 12:06:17 PM
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If you want to make racing apply to production cars, Let them do anything with the cars but limit them to a fixed number of gallons of fuel to make the 500 miles.  Thedn you will see them tune the cars like real world cars with performance per gallon burned. 

wb9ddf
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fuel economy
wb9ddf   5/14/2012 12:06:19 PM
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If you want to make racing apply to production cars, Let them do anything with the cars but limit them to a fixed number of gallons of fuel to make the 500 miles.  Thedn you will see them tune the cars like real world cars with performance per gallon burned as the crieteria. 

Kevin
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Re: fuel economy
Kevin   5/14/2012 1:57:35 PM
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I agree with the sentiment that perhaps the INDY rules should try to include some measure of efficiency, such as limiting fuel tank size to a small volume to impose a minimum MPG threshold (more pit-stops penalize low MPG cars).  It all boils down to what focus the race is intended to have. 

For example the "Race of Champions" uses identical cars and therefore is all about the drivers.  In the 1980's...formula SuperV (SCCA race class) allowed only minor variations in the basic VW engine and heavily specified other variables like tire size - focusing on keeping costs down and of course making driver skill paramount....with only a minor role played by the engine tuners.  It was still fun to watch.

Of course, there is the Shell Eco Marathon and the Automotive X-Prize, which focus on efficiency (but nearly eliminate the driver skill aspect and certainly any wheel-to-wheel racing maneuvers).  This is mainly about the design of the car and the skill of the tuner.  These are also completely boring to watch as spectator sports...therefore useless as a replacement to the spectacle of INDY (or Stock Car or F1) racing.

I would suggest limiting displacement to a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder, which represents an engine that can power 90% of the cars on the road (with turbocharging).  As someone who has been a racing enthusiast my entire life - I agree that historically there have been a number of things that have transferred between racing and everyday cars (such as the first turbocharged car in, I recall 1968?).  However, engine technology has now gotten so advanced that I'm not sure there still is much transfer.  For example, the Formula 1 "KERS" units (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) were similar to hybrid technology....but only remotely applicable to real-world cars.  Last I heard, the KERS units have been legislated out, because costs were out-of-control, benefits minor, and also added safety risk (high speed flywheels).

 

Kevin

 

DanSchwartz
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Re: fuel economy
DanSchwartz   5/14/2012 3:40:24 PM
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Actually, unlike NASCAR, IndyCar has had gallon fuel limits for many decades. In fact, Andy Granatelli (of turbine fame) proposed in the late 60's that cars should be allowed any fuel, but only a certain number of total BTU's for the 500 miles.

 

Where this fell apart in the old days (60's & 70's) is that teams would field a "rabbit" that would burn up more fuel than was needed to complete the race, in the hope of tricking the other racers to run them out of fuel before 500 miles. Remember, we're talking crafty people with names like Foyt, Penske, and Ganassi!

Jon Titus
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Couldn't robots drive?
Jon Titus   5/14/2012 1:55:04 PM
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Instead of worrying about drivers getting killed at 300 MPH, why not start using robotic vehicles?  Driving a car around a track provides me with as much amusement as watching grass grow, but for those who enjoy it, a robotic car competition might bring back some of the excitement.

Alcohol as fuel, who knew?  I'd rather drink than drive.

RICKZ28
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Re: Couldn't robots drive?
RICKZ28   5/14/2012 6:26:36 PM
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Watching people drive remote controlled cars (robot cars) would be as boring as watching people play video games.

There is no replacement for big racing (sporting) names like Andretti, Foyt, Unser and Fittipaldi.  Race fans generally have their favorite driver, as well as their favorite brand of car/engine.  Big-name sports stars provide the performance and fill the stands.

For those not interested in professional sports, including auto racing, don't watch and don't attend.  To each thier own.

 

John
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F1 700Hp
John   5/14/2012 3:44:49 PM
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You must be a NASCAR fan.  I just read an article the other day on NASCAR and something about Jeff Gordon saying F1 racing was done at the pole position laps and the race was a follow the leader event.  I thought this was intresting and I don't watch much racing, but thought F1 race tracks are something totally different from any other racing and the track by nature doesn't allow a lot of passing.  700Hp isn't something to sneeze at.  It's quiet a bit of power.  Course it's an engine running about 10,000 RPM to produce this power and it's a wonder it doesn't  just fly apart.

RICKZ28
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Re: F1 700Hp
RICKZ28   5/14/2012 6:42:08 PM
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As for durability, I believe the new rule for IndyCar engines is that the engines must last 1,850 miles.  The Chevrolet cars all started last for the Long Beach Gran Prix due to an engine change for all the Chevy's.  Will Power still won driving a Chevrolet.

RICKZ28
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Re: F1 700Hp
RICKZ28   5/14/2012 6:57:08 PM
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Yep...NASCAR usually has more lead changed in one race than F1 has in one season!  In F1, usually the pole sitter wins the race, that's not the case in NASCAR.

DanSchwartz
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Deceptive article title
DanSchwartz   5/14/2012 3:56:46 PM
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I find the article title of Indy Engines Still Pack a 700HP Punch to be deceptive: As Robin Miller pointed out last night on Wind Tunnel, the running joke around The Brickyard is that the Corvette pace car has more horsepower (638 hp) than the race cars (560).

Even with the boost being increased from 130kPa (18.9 psig) to 140kPa (20.3 psig) for qualifying, that's still only a 50-60 hp boost -- And still less than the pace car.

Charles Murray
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Re: Deceptive article title
Charles Murray   5/14/2012 6:46:08 PM
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I can see where the headline is confusing, Dan. As you seem to know already, the top level of horsepower for a car in the Indy race series is different than that of the Indy 500 because of permissable boost levels. The Indy 500 is 550-560 HP; the Indy car series is about 700 HP. We put 700 HP in the headline because it's the top output. Sorry for the confusion.

TOP
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What ever happened to the Offy?
TOP   5/14/2012 5:18:09 PM
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What ever happened to the Offenhauser?

William K.
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Whatever happened to the Offenhauser
William K.   5/14/2012 10:41:39 PM
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The Offy was a high stung engine that required a lot of frequent adjustement to keep running right. It was a "mechanical marvel" indeed. But computer controlled fuel injected engines ran a bit better for a lot longer with less work required.  Also, I think that the newer engines were a bit cheaper.

bobjengr
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OLD DOGS—NEW TRICKS
bobjengr   5/16/2012 7:57:12 PM
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Charles, what a great article.  Very informative.  I thought I knew a thing or two about engines and Formula 1 racing.  As it turns out, this old dog learned several new tricks from the write-up AND the very informative comments.   While a student, I enrolled in a course called "Internal Combustion Engines", taught by Dr. W.K. Stare.  Like a rookie, I thought we would learn how to tear down engines, replace valves, machine cam shafts,etc etc.   It was during those ancient days when universities had at least one semester of machine shop (manufacturing processes).  (You get the picture.)  Instead, it was about dissociation equations, engine indicators, combustion processes and the chemistry of combustion.  I got out of there with a "B" only because Dr. Stare believed in grading on the "curve" and that year was his last before retirement.  He, in my case, definitely felt generous.   Fascinating course but one I probably could not pass today.

Charles Murray
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Re: OLD DOGS—NEW TRICKS
Charles Murray   5/23/2012 9:35:17 PM
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In truth, bobjengr, I believe most experienced engineers would have preferred a more hands-on approach than Dr. Stare provided. The tendency for such courses to become too theoretical is a subject for long and lively discussions.

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