HYBRID POWER PLANTS KEY TO AUDI, TOYOTA, PORSCHE SUCCESSES IN LE MANS RACE

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The Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid No. 2 car driven by Benoit Treluyer (right) crosses the finish line just ahead of the team’s No. 1 car of Tom Kristensen in Le Mans. AFP PHOTO

The Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid No. 2 car driven by Benoit Treluyer (right) crosses the finish line just ahead of the team’s No. 1 car of Tom Kristensen in Le Mans. AFP PHOTO

AUDI ruled this year’s edition of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans as it scored its fifth successive victory and a 1-2 finish. Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer came home three laps ahead of the second Audi, led by driver Tom Kristensen.

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But the team trailed until the 21st hour the Porsche of former Formula One driver Mark Webber, which retired because of a gearbox failure. With the Audis getting a clear run to the finish, taking the final podium spot, five laps behind, was the Toyota driven by a trio headed by Nicolas Lapierre.

Besides Le Mans race-winning pace, what do the Audi R18 e-tron quattros, Porsche 919s and Toyota TS 040s have in common?

All pack high-tech hybrid power plants.

The carmakers took radically different routes in developing their engine and hybrid recovery systems. But, surprisingly, all came in to within two seconds a lap in terms of pace.

The R18 is powered by a 4.0-liter, turbocharged, V6 diesel engine that makes more than 500hp. An additional 100hp is available electronically, sourced from a single flywheel-based hybrid system.

In comparison, the 919 runs on a small 2.0-liter, turbocharged V4 gasoline engine that spins out 500hp. Braking and exhaust-energy recovery systems, via lithium-ion electrical storage cells, can add 250hp more.

Toyota fitted a 520hp naturally aspirated 3.7-liter, V8 gasoline engine in its TS 040. Reportedly, as much as 480hp of hybrid boost is available from two braking energy-derived, motor-generator units that store power in a supercapacitor.

All the advanced power plant technologies stress the importance of efficient energy use, and this year’s Le Mans race served as a research and development lab for carmakers seeking to prove that hybrids are the future not only in motor sports, but in production models as well.

WITH A REPORT FROM AFP

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