Breakthrough in Ricardo Kinergy high-speed flywheel technology 23 August 2011

Ricardo has today (23 August 2011) announced a breakthrough in its revolutionary Kinergy hermetically sealed, high-speed flywheel energy storage device.

According to Nick Owen, project director for research and collaboration at Ricardo UK, a major improvement in the magnetic coupling and gearing system has now taken its efficiency to better than that of a conventional geared drive.

Kinergy is based on a high-speed carbon fibre flywheel that operates in a hermetically sealed vacuum chamber at speeds of up to 60,000rpm. Unlike current mechanical energy storage devices, in which energy is imported and exported via a drive shaft operating at flywheel speed, Kinergy transfers torque directly through its containment wall, using magnetic gearing and coupling.

Hence Owen's claim that the unit is sealed for life, and the point that it eliminates the need for high-speed seals and a vacuum pump, and so cuts costs, maintenance, weight and space requirements.

He explains that this first Kinergy prototype has resulted from fast-track engineering development intended to deliver the unit that will be at the core of the Flybus high-speed flywheel mechanical hybrid powertrain demonstrator vehicle.

Following precise balancing of the flywheel rotor during construction and assembly, the unit was installed on a specially constructed dynamometer, and successive tests at increasing speeds have proven its behaviour against engineering simulations.

"The efficiency improvements announced today represent a significant milestone in the development of this highly promising Ricardo patented energy storage technology," states Owens.

"This next-generation, cost-effective, high energy density flywheel system genuinely moves the state of the art forward, offering the prospect of effective mechanical hybridisation of low-carbon powertrain applications in all types of vehicles," he adds.

Owens says that Ricardo will now focus on the further optimisation of the Kinergy system – primarily integration with an improved continuously variable transmission and with electrical power take-off devices for recharging vehicle batteries.

Also being explored are improvements to the design of the magnetic gearbox for better manufacturability and efficiency, and designs for improved component concepts, including low loss magnetic bearings and lighter containment systems.

The prototype Kinergy system, as delivered to the Flybus project, will be on display at the Ricardo and Torotrak booths at Cenex LCV2011 at Rockingham, UK, on 7—8 September.

Brian Tinham

Related Companies
Ricardo UK Ltd
Torotrak (Development) Ltd

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