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Why did the flywheel hybrid system never catch on for road cars? – Ars Technica

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Enlarge / Why did the flywheel hybrid never catch on for road cars?

When a Speed network television crew interviewed Margo T. Oge, then-director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, during the 10-hour long 2010 Petit Le Mans Series race at Road Atlanta, Porsche’s experimental 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car held down a top-20 position in the 45-car field.

The broadcast crew took every opportunity to call attention to the presence of the new Porsche. Hybrid street cars were becoming mainstream, and “road relevance” was repeatedly cited by Oge along with energy independence and low carbon emissions as EPA imperatives.

But, like its similarly new Formula One hybrid race car cousins, this special 911 GT3 R was not a street-going hybrid. This was a “flywheel hybrid.” Instead of parallel gasoline engine/electric motor drive systems combined with a battery, the 911 racer paired an internal combustion flat-six cylinder with an electro-mechanical flywheel energy storage system.

Porsche motorsports engineers began researching hybrid systems for racing in 2007. Around the same time, F1 decided to integrate hybrid tech. Starting with the 2009 season, F1 allowed its teams to use mild hybrid systems called kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS).

Most F1 teams developed KERS that used batteries, but the Williams F1 team created an electromechanical flywheel system. Williams ultimately did not race that system owing to Formula One technical regulations. (Interestingly, Chrysler attempted to build a natural gas/flywheel hybrid race car for Le Mans 15 years earlier, but that program never made it to a race either.)

However, Porsche eventually licensed the concept from Williams Hybrid Power and set about adapting it to endurance racing in the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. Audi, too, had a go with a flywheel in its all-conquering R18 e-tron Quattro diesel-electric prototype. The Audi prototype used a system further developed by UK automotive/aerospace supplier, GKN, which acquired Williams Hybrid Power in 2014. This flywheel hybrid racer won dozens of races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, outright, in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Given these high-profile racing factory programs nestled in F1 and sports car racing, many if not most casual observers expected flywheel hybrid technology to migrate to production vehicles within a few years.

That never happened. How come?

A high-RPM booster

In simple terms, an automotive flywheel hybrid system leverages power from a mechanical flywheel motor to augment power from an internal combustion engine for short periods. Electric motor/generators located at a vehicle’s wheels or axles produce electricity harvested from the kinetic energy which is otherwise wasted as heat when friction brakes decelerate the vehicle.

But instead of sending the energy to a chemical battery for storage and redeployment, the electricity is used to drive a flywheel motor. Electrical energy is transferred to rotating kinetic energy by a novel magnetic material (sometimes a magnetic powder) embedded within the flywheel. The more energy applied, the faster it spins. (NB: this is different to the mechanical flywheel hybrid system that Nissan attempted unsuccessfully to develop for its 2015 Le Mans racer.)

The mass of the flywheel and the velocity at which it spins—typically from 25,000rpm up to 55,000rpm or more—determine the availability of energy it can release. To transfer the kinetic energy stored in the flywheel back into electrical energy, the rotating magnetic field generates a current in the reverse direction (by inverting the polarity of the applied voltage) and power is delivered to the same motor/generators that harvested energy during the original braking event.

As noted, the motor generators may be located at the wheels. Alternately, a flywheel motor may be connected to the engine driveshaft via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or other coupler. When called for, it couples with the driveshaft, taking the potential energy from the flywheel and translating it to kinetic energy propelling the driveshaft and drive wheels.

Flywheel motors have often been compared to capacitors, capable of quickly storing and releasing energy. Proponents cite weight, cost, and environmental advantages over traditional chemical-battery hybrids.

In the 911 GT3 R, the flywheel motor used a carbon fiber-composite flywheel with a 16-inch (406mm) diameter. Mounted in a carbon fiber box where the passenger seat would be in a road-going 911, the flywheel motor received power from, and sent power to, an 80hp (60kW) electric motor/generator at each front wheel. The configuration allowed Porsche to incorporate torque vectoring to improve handling/traction when accelerating from corner apex out.

The flywheel motor in Porsche’s racer had a capacity of 0.2kWh. It could deliver 163hp (122kW) for up to six seconds, offering boost for acceleration—out of corners or for passing depending on how/when the driver decided to apply the extra power via a steering wheel-mounted button.

The car had a total system output of about 670hp (500kW) and weighed approximately 2,866lbs (1,300kg). The flywheel and support structure reportedly weighed around 103lbs (47kg), considerably lighter than a battery-electric hybrid setup. In all, the car weighed 230lbs (104kg) more than the conventional Porsche GT3 cars it shared the track with.

Porsche viewed flywheel storage as more durable than lithium-ion batteries in the extreme power charge/discharge cycles of racing. Unlike a battery, the flywheel motor was capable of being fully charged (accelerated to its maximum speed) and discharged (decelerated to a near stop) multiple times a minute without adverse affects.

Thanks to its relative fuel efficiency—if not outright speed—the 911 GT3 R Hybrid actually led the 2010 Nurburgring 24 Hour race for eight hours before dropping out. At the 2010 Petit Le Mans, the car ultimately finished 18th, though attrition helped.

It raced again in 2011 but was put aside thereafter as Porsche concentrated on its 919 Hybrid World Endurance Championship prototype racer.

Slow, not fast, energy recovery & storage

The shift in Porsche’s racing commitment to the Le Mans-bound 919 Hybrid was partly connected to its contemporary road-going supercar project, according to Daniel Armbruster, president and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America.

“It was around that time that work was also already underway on the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid super sports car,” he remembers. “In both instances [919/918], it was found that lithium-ion batteries offered the best balance of energy retention and power delivery for their respective purposes.”

Despite its routine stop-start nature—and thus opportunities to harvest regenerative braking energy—street driving is not characterized by the need to sprint from corner apex to corner apex, braking and accelerating at maximum possible rates as in racing. The demand for quick, intensive energy recovery and subsequent deployment is replaced by a mandate for slower-paced electrical energy generation and deployment, shifting the emphasis to energy storage.

“The flywheel hybrid technology in the 911 GT3 R Hybrid offered fuel savings and therefore a reduced need for pit time versus the cars it competed against,” Armbruster explains. “In racing applications, it’s possible to make more effective use of a flywheel because of the frequent hard braking and acceleration that are both good matches for the short-term energy storage ability and high output capacity of that technology.”

“But the technology wasn’t without challenges. In general, the flywheel does not store much energy, just the braking energy,” he says. “A battery is able to achieve highly stable, long-term energy storage in a way that a flywheel simply cannot match. For road uses where the ability to drive on demand without local emissions is important, as is becoming increasingly the case in parts of Europe, a battery-based solution is the best hybrid powertrain option.”

While the limited storage capacity of the flywheel hybrid sidelined the technology for Porsche, Armbruster adds that, “There is no denying that the 911 GT3 R Hybrid played a pivotal role in proving that hybrid technology had a home in high-performance sports car applications.”

Looking back to that time from the present day, Glen Pascoe, principal design engineer with Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), says that the quick capture and release of energy by flywheel motor systems is better suited to peak cycle applications.

“Besides city-center use, the duty cycle for a typical passenger car does not suit the repeated ‘start-stop’ nature that best suits flywheel technology,” says Pascoe. “The stored energy in a flywheel is always depleting, unlike a chemical battery, which can hold its state of charge over a very long period of time.”

On the buses

Williams’ basic flywheel hybrid concept did reach city centers in 2015 when GKN modified the system for London buses. GKN’s Gyrodrive flywheel hybrid system included a traction motor driven from the vehicle’s drive axle, an electric flywheel, an inverter for the motor/flywheel unit, and an electronic control system.

The system, and subsequent variations, have seen use in buses from UK manufacturer Alexander Dennis in both single and double-decker bus models. However, the Gyrodrive flywheel system was considered too large and expensive for urban-use cars (taxis), which adopted various battery strategies.

Glen Pascoe says WAE is not specifically refining any flywheel systems at the present but adds that “as we work across a wide range of industries and examine the requirements of our clients in detail, this technology may be appropriate for certain applications in the future.”

That could include racing if racing series/sanctioning bodies allowed such devices though current interest appears to lie more in hybrid battery and fast-charging development. WAE is currently engaged in hydrogen fuel cell development for large mining trucks using regenerative braking in much the same way as with flywheel systems.

Porsche Motorsport North America’s president says the company “is always evaluating which technologies offer the best solution for the current situation,” not ruling out any single approach.

Armbruster explains that Porsche’s strategy “includes internal combustion powertrains, sporty plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles… We are also investigating the development of synthetic fuels that offer an environmentally sound approach to internal combustion vehicles that are already on the road.”

Ironically, the flywheel hybrids that most of us now encounter lie in vehicles we ride in (buses, trains, ships) rather than drive. And static flywheel systems are also under development; in Germany, a company called Chakratec has just installed a flywheel storage system at a Premier Inn in Leipzig, designed to manage peak loads for EV chargers.

But about a decade ago flywheel-motor-augmented race cars led the Nurburgring 24 and competed credibly against lighter GT3 cars. Further investment could both lighten and potentially improve the energy storage capacity of such systems, again pairing drivers and flywheels in a sport that rarely throws everything away.

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At home for a year, office workers complain of aches, pains and Zoom fatigue – CBC.ca

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As a physiotherapist, Matthew Laing is seeing first-hand the consequences for many people who have been working from home for nearly a full year because of the pandemic.

He says he frequently hears the same complaints from clients: neck, back and shoulder pain that bothers them throughout the day because they’re stuck and not moving.

“I’ve got clients who just don’t move for eight hours a day,” said Laing, who is based in Toronto. “We’re human beings, we’re not meant to be in a sedentary position, not moving at all.”

Back in March 2020, when many companies directed most of their staff to leave the office and telecommute in an effort to slow the spread of a scary new coronavirus, the experience of working from home felt novel, perhaps even exciting for some workers.

At the very least, it was considered a blessing to have the option, particularly as workers in other sectors, such as health-care workers and grocery store staff, didn’t have the same choice, and many other workers were laid off because of the pandemic’s economic toll.

But working from makeshift setups with non-ergonomic chairs and unorthodox workspaces has caused its share of physical strain. And collaborating with colleagues remotely for so long has only worsened a COVID 19-era ailment of another kind: Zoom fatigue.

WATCH | Zoom fatigue is taking its toll:

Zoom fatigue has become a pandemic side effect for people working from home. It has led to neck, back and shoulder pain, and made workers overly aware of their facial expressions because of constant videoconferencing. 2:01

“The novelty has worn off,” said Peter Flaschner, a director of the marketing firm Klick Health, who started working from his Toronto living room and kitchen a year ago.

He’s since turned a room upstairs into a temporary office. “We’ve become quite adept at this,” he said, referring to collaborating with colleagues remotely.

A year ago, few would have foreseen how widespread videoconferencing would become. Trials are held online, world leaders attend international summits virtually, and even Queen Elizabeth makes appearances via a webcam at Windsor Castle.

Queen Elizabeth has been holding virtual meetings while staying at Windsor Castle during the pandemic. (Twitter/Royal Family)

Downloads of the pandemic’s hottest video chat software, Zoom, exploded. The company said last spring 300 million daily participants were meeting on the platform. This past week, it reported total revenue of $882.5 million US, up a whopping 369 per cent year-over-year for the quarter ending Jan. 31.

But with that added usage came increased complaints of Zoom fatigue, the term given to the unique brand of mental exhaustion caused by hours of videoconferencing on any app, including Microsoft’s Skype and Teams, Cisco Webex and Google Meet.

“I’ve never put my finger on why being on Zoom all day is so mentally and physically exhausting,” Giancarlo Fiorella, a Toronto-based investigator for the website Bellingcat, tweeted

“There’s a reason why TED talks are 18 minutes,” said Anthony Bonato, a Ryerson University mathematics professor, referring to the popular series of online lectures. “Zoom fatigue is real.”

Researchers at Stanford University recently considered what makes videoconferencing so tiring. They pointed to four factors:

  • The unnaturally prolonged simulation of close-up eye contact. 
  • The mental strain of watching other attendees for visual cues. 
  • A reduction in mobility from staying in the same spot. 
  • Constantly seeing yourself in real time. 

Their work was published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior. Stanford communication professor Jeremy Bailenson points out in the article, “The arguments are based on academic theory and research, but also have yet to be directly tested in the context of Zoom, and require future experimentation to confirm.”

Still, “this is a huge transformation to the way we normally talk,” fellow Stanford communication professor Jeff Hancock told CBC News over Zoom from his home in Palo Alto, Calif. “It’s like walking around with a mirror hanging around in front of us.”

He said Zoom fatigue is bound to affect people of different genders and races to varying degrees, particularly when it comes to the way individuals pay attention to — and perceive — their own image, what’s known as self-focused attention.

“There’s a lot of work in psychology that shows people that have higher levels of self-focused attention are more likely to feel anxious or even more likely to get depressed,” said Hancock, a B.C. native. “And we find the same kind of thing here [with Zoom fatigue].”

What to do about it

Bailenson recommends turning off “self-view” mode as much as possible, as well reducing the size of the videoconference window so it doesn’t take up the entire screen. He hopes platforms such as Zoom will change default settings so the user isn’t automatically faced with their own image any time they enter a video meeting, unless that’s what they choose.

As for the aches and pains, Laing, the physiotherapist, recommends doing small exercises between meetings to break up the time spent in front of the computer screen.

“It’s not about changing what they’re doing during those meetings … instead, it’s actually to get them to maximize the time between meetings,” he said.

Matthew Laing, a registered physiotherapist and the owner of Foundation Physiotherapy in Toronto, says it’s important to move around between online meetings. (Taylor Simmons/CBC)

Laing recommends at-home workers get up — even for 30 seconds at a time — to do a few squats or stretches. Even going up and down stairs can help break the monotony and physical inertia.

“Just pacing around between meetings … can go a long way,” he said.

Others have a longer-term solution. While vaccines start to help fight the spread of COVID-19, the eventual return of face-to-face meetings may prove to be the only cure for Zoom fatigue.

“If we could do hybrid [meetings], that would be just great, if it means more people are able to participate,” said Dipika Damerla, a municipal councillor in Mississauga, Ont. A hybrid meeting would have a mix of virtual and in-person attendance, once public measures allow for it. 

The city, like many others, has been holding public meetings via videoconference.

And it hasn’t always gone according to plan.

A presenter at a recent council meeting asked for her presentation to be delayed.

“What issues are you having?” staff asked.

“My Powerpoint presentation isn’t opening,” the presenter replied, reflecting a recurring pandemic-era scenario.

Damerla herself shared a habit to which many videoconference participants can relate, even a year into the pandemic.

“I still start to speak with the mute button on.”

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BC First Nation 'outraged' after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak – Parksville Qualicum Beach News – Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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The Tsartlip First Nation expressed outrage this week after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact that the First Nation chose not to make public after witnessing the racism faced by the Cowichan Tribes after an outbreak there.

On March 2, Olsen, the representative for Saanich North and the Islands, shared on social media that the Tsartlip had been under shelter-in-place orders for several weeks and that all adults would be receiving a vaccine dose shortly. He added that as a member and resident of the nation, he too would be vaccinated on March 3.

READ ALSO: ‘Vile; filled with racism’: Officials condemn reaction to Cowichan First Nations COVID outbreak

In a public statement on Thursday, Chief Don Tom called Olsen’s announcement “highly offensive” and said the MLA had overstepped his role. He said the Tsartlip First Nation experienced an outbreak at the end of January and members were ordered to shelter-in-place starting Feb. 8. He said the last positive test was on Feb. 6 and that the nation currently has no active cases of COVID-19.

“Tsartlip has a right to self-determination, we cannot have an MLA misrepresenting our First Nation, and taking liberties to make public statements without consulting Tsartlip,” Tom said, adding that Olsen owed the community a public apology.

READ ALSO: BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

The same day, Olsen called Tom to offer his “unreserved apology” and shared an open letter on social media acknowledging it is not his role as an MLA to speak on behalf of the nation.

“I know these past weeks have been an incredibly difficult time for our community and I’m devastated that my actions have increased anxiety,” he wrote. “You have my commitment that this situation will not be repeated, and I fully accept your frustration and anger with my actions.”

READ ALSO: Adam Olsen declared winner in Saanich North and the Islands

Tom emphasized that the Tsartlip First Nation had specifically chosen to keep the outbreak private after witnessing the “cruel racism” members of the Cowichan Tribes experienced after an outbreak was declared in January. The Cowichan Tribes issued a stay-at-home order until Jan. 22 after more than 70 COVID-19 cases were reported.

According to Derek Thompson, Cowichan Tribes general manager, racism towards members of the First Nation increased immediately after the outbreak was disclosed.

“We chose to not subject Tsartlip members to this and kept our outbreak status private,” Tom said, noting that after Olsen revealed the situation, the First Nation was forced to address the outbreak publicly and clarify the situation. “Our membership now feel angst and worry for their social well-being.”

-With files from the Canadian Press


@devonscarlett
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BC First Nation 'outraged' after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak – Surrey Now-Leader – Surrey Now-Leader

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The Tsartlip First Nation expressed outrage this week after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact that the First Nation chose not to make public after witnessing the racism faced by the Cowichan Tribes after an outbreak there.

On March 2, Olsen, the representative for Saanich North and the Islands, shared on social media that the Tsartlip had been under shelter-in-place orders for several weeks and that all adults would be receiving a vaccine dose shortly. He added that as a member and resident of the nation, he too would be vaccinated on March 3.

READ ALSO: ‘Vile; filled with racism’: Officials condemn reaction to Cowichan First Nations COVID outbreak

In a public statement on Thursday, Chief Don Tom called Olsen’s announcement “highly offensive” and said the MLA had overstepped his role. He said the Tsartlip First Nation experienced an outbreak at the end of January and members were ordered to shelter-in-place starting Feb. 8. He said the last positive test was on Feb. 6 and that the nation currently has no active cases of COVID-19.

“Tsartlip has a right to self-determination, we cannot have an MLA misrepresenting our First Nation, and taking liberties to make public statements without consulting Tsartlip,” Tom said, adding that Olsen owed the community a public apology.

READ ALSO: BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

The same day, Olsen called Tom to offer his “unreserved apology” and shared an open letter on social media acknowledging it is not his role as an MLA to speak on behalf of the nation.

“I know these past weeks have been an incredibly difficult time for our community and I’m devastated that my actions have increased anxiety,” he wrote. “You have my commitment that this situation will not be repeated, and I fully accept your frustration and anger with my actions.”

READ ALSO: Adam Olsen declared winner in Saanich North and the Islands

Tom emphasized that the Tsartlip First Nation had specifically chosen to keep the outbreak private after witnessing the “cruel racism” members of the Cowichan Tribes experienced after an outbreak was declared in January. The Cowichan Tribes issued a stay-at-home order until Jan. 22 after more than 70 COVID-19 cases were reported.

According to Derek Thompson, Cowichan Tribes general manager, racism towards members of the First Nation increased immediately after the outbreak was disclosed.

“We chose to not subject Tsartlip members to this and kept our outbreak status private,” Tom said, noting that after Olsen revealed the situation, the First Nation was forced to address the outbreak publicly and clarify the situation. “Our membership now feel angst and worry for their social well-being.”

-With files from the Canadian Press


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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