First it was week five. Then it was week eight. Finally, it was last Friday. The end of week nine. But DirtFish can now confirm all three World Rally Championship teams have their first hybrid test unit.
How are they finding it? Could we just say the jury’s out right now. None of the teams are willing to talk on the record – understandably, given that the piece of kit around which the next generation of World Rally Championship cars is being built has just dropped onto the mat.
Privately, there are reservations. Privately, DirtFish is told, some parts aren’t working and some parts – including the software vital to run the system – are missing.
One source said: “We understand the difficulties in the world right now – we are all living with these difficulties – but to be missing key parts and to have the system not working as we agreed is frustrating. And when we say frustrating, I think we are being kind. How can we make this thing work when we don’t have an external charger? This is hybrid – the charger is important.”
Compact Dynamics (the firm delivering hybrid to WRC) CEO Oliver Blamberger openly admits meeting the test schedule for WRC has been a significant challenge.
Blamberger told DirtFish: “Our original target was to deliver hybrid to each team by the end of January, calendar week 5. Due to some problems with our suppliers in China because of the coronavirus pandemic and also at the border line between Germany and Austria to our partner Kreisel, we had a delay. And based on that delay we shifted the first delivery from calendar week five to calendar week eight.
“Last Friday, at the end of week nine, we supplied each team with their first test system. We started the development of this in May last year, we still have a very strong crisis all over the world and 10 months later the first system is delivered – from my side this is a great success.”
Let testing commence
As already reported by DirtFish, M-Sport’s 2022 World Rally Championship challenger is up and running with Toyota closing on its first mileage. Hyundai is a little further back, but Blamberger says the hybid unit doesn’t need a car around it for testing.
He added: “It’s possible to mount this on a test bench or in the car, we communicated this to the teams. From my understanding, everybody who has the system right now can decide to use on the test bench or in the car. And we will deliver the second test system two weeks from now and the third system five weeks from now.
“And every system has fulfilled 100% of our end of line tests, which means everything is on target for performance and safety. We have a very, very good result for the first system and I’m happy for this.”
Given the global crisis we have, to deliver with only a five week delay is a great jobOliver Blamberger
But what about reports from some teams that aspects are not working?
“There is a special reason,” said Blamberger, “what we have not yet delivered right now is the external charger. For this we need two weeks more, but to test the system on the bench or in the car you can charge it by working with the generator function against the internal combustion. It’s no problem.”
Costings caused further delay
While Compact Dynamics worked closely with Kreisel to refine the production process – running end of line testing at Kreisel in Austria rather than sending parts back and forth across the border and ultimately packaging and distributing from Austria – the commercial aspect of the agreement brought more delays.
Blamberger: “We have had to pick the pieces from all over the world, because the pricing structure on this system is very, very strong. The whole hybrid system, race-ready, has to be delivered for €100,000 ($119,628) per car and this is not a huge amount of money for the battery, for the clutch, for the harnessing, the power electronics and the electric engine.
“Because of this we have to look all over the world with our purchasing department to find the best prices and this is another reason some parts come with some delays. We tried to compensate and be very intelligent with some suppliers and given the global crisis we have, to deliver with only a five week delay is a great job.”
As expected the hybrid system will deliver and additional 100kW – but how and where that will be deployed is still to be agreed. DirtFish understands the system will be able to recover energy between the stages to deploy in selected ‘boost zones’ in the stages.
“The chance of energy recovery depends on the internal policy of the team,” said Blamberger.
“The hybrid system can be used as a motor and a generator. They generate battery power between stages and that recovered power can be used in the next stage. Additionally, the cars will be able to use electric power in towns and cities.”
Blamberger was quick to point out the limitations of the battery in the system – and warned against fans expecting to see 500-plus bhp Rally1 cars rocketing own the road.
“The battery,” he said, “has a volume of three to four kilowatts, it’s not so much. It’s more a boosting effect where you can say: “OK, around a corner I have 140 extra horsepower or before a certain part of the stage.
“You have to remember it’s always a balance between performance and weight for the whole system.”