Infiniti is adapting hybrid technology from its Red Bull F1 racer to build the next generation of performance road cars.
The technology Daniel Ricciardo used to set the fastest race lap at last week’s Australian Grand Prix will be applied to Infiniti’s first effort at a supercar, heralding the Japanese-based company’s resurgence as a premium prestige brand.
Infiniti is a major player in North America but has yet to hit massive highs in Europe of Asia-Pacific, despite making serious inroads in the Chinese market. Infiniti’s head of product strategy Francois Bancon believes the Project Black S concept can help shift that perception.
Kinetic and thermal energy recovery _ both stored in a fast-discharge lithium-ion battery _ are features of modern F1 cars and fuse extra power with lower fuel use.
Bancon says the Black S _ which is being evaluated for production _ combines the company’s seriously quick V6 twin-turbo engine seen in the Q60 Red Sport coupe _ with F1-style energy recovery to boost power from the combustion engine’s 298kW to 373KW and cuts fuel consumption in the process.
“Justifying our investment in F1 is hard because the base doesn’t exist in America (Infiniti’s biggest market by far),” Bancon explains. “As head of motorsport you need to look at the technology not the (audience) numbers and cars like the Black S give us a way forward.”
It’s a similar story with the drive-by-wire software that underpins many Infiniti cars. Bancon admits the evolving technology isn’t fitted to the Black S is but says “it is the future if we want autonomous driving”.
“We probably haven’t communicated this technology well enough in the past but it is necessary if we want to move to fully autonomous driving. EPAS (electric power assisted steering) is good but there is a delay _ with drive-by-wire the software instantly talks to the other parts of the car and avoids this.”
“It is still an technology we have to work on but all car companies will do this at some stage _ there is no choice if we want to advance to fully autonomous cars.
The F1-style hybrid system in the Black S boosts power from the standard Q60 Red Sport’s 298kW to 373kW while also being able to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations.
Short-term, the QX50 mid-sized SUV due to arrive in Australia early next year uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre variable compression ratio engine to manage performance and fuel economy.
Bancon says the engine doesn’t hit maximum power or 0-100km/h times but its utility and fuel consumption make it the next big thing.
“Everyone has tried this _ Volvo and Mercedes-Benz _ but they walked away because it was too hard. It has taken us 20 years to reach this point. Conventional turbo engines can be tuned for high-speed power or for tractability around town _ you can’t have both,” he explains.
“With a VC (variable compression) engine we can tune it to do just that and still have class-leading fuel efficiency in all situations.”
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Author Craig Duff