French automaker Peugeot became the first major manufacturer to show a hybrid racing car that it expects to enter in next-year's 24-hours of Le Mans endurance event. Designed for the primo Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) category, the new 908 HY will employ an even more sophisticated hybrid setup than the one being introduced in Formula One next season. While the F1 Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) relies on either an energy-storing flywheel or an electric capacitor/battery package similar in concept to the one used by Honda's Integrated Motor Assist, Peugeot's "HY" package is a true parallel system like the Toyota Prius. As such, the Peugeot Hybrid will be able to operate on pure electric power -- in the pits -- on diesel only, or on any combination of the two. The system uses a gear-driven electric motor/generator to provide 80 additional horsepower for approximately 20 seconds before needing to recharge its array of 600 Lithium-ion battery cells that are located in 10 strategically positioned sub-packs -- a task accomplished on the fly using regenerative braking.
While the package hardware currently weighs about 100 lb, Peugeot engineers hope to trim about one third of that mass before the car makes its anticipated debut at the famed 24-hour endurance race in France next June. Organizers of the race are still finalizing rule specifics for this new "greener" incarnations of Prototype machine, a fine point that Peugeot Sport Director Michel Barge admits will ultimately determine the viability of his firm's innovative racer. But Le Mans officials appear to be as steadfast in their commitment to this nascent technology as they were in opening the competitive doors for the current wave of new-gen turbodiesel cars, like the awesome Audi R10 TDI and Peugeot's own 908 HDi FAP that forms the basis for its 908 HY prototype.
In light of that fact, Barge remains optimistic, noting that there's a practical side to embracing this forward-looking technology. "The hybrid 908 HDi FAP is in perfect keeping with the overall mission of our endurance racing program which covers not only the challenge of competing, of course, but also the fact that as a car manufacturer, we can use motor sport as a research and development tool for the Peugeot brand as a whole."
Here in America, Corsa Motorsports hopes to beat Peugeot to the competitive punch. It recently announced plans to enter a gasoline-electric hybrid version of an LMP1 car it co-developed with Zytek in the annual 10-hour Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in October. That event is run under American Le Mans Series (ALMS) rules, which are very similar to those used by its French counterpart.