Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (2023)


  • Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time?
  • Recovery of kinetic energy - a way out of the "waste" of energy
  • Advances in energy recovery
  • Applications of kinetic energy recovery systems
  • Conclution

Energy recovery systems capture the wasted kinetic and thermal energy generated during braking and use it to provide additional power or increase mileage.

Car racing is often seen as an exercise in futility - wasting valuable resources just to come first in a stupid race!

Except it's not!

Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (1)

The race is one of the biggest test beds for the technical and technological development of car manufacturers (Photo credit: Ev. Safronov/Shutterstock)

The races are also a huge research and development exercise, testing everything the manufacturers stand for. However, what if someone wanted to run and save some of those valuable resources at the same time?

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Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time?

According to the law of conservation of energy, it is quite clear that the total energy in a system remains constant and only changes in form.

(Video) How do racecar drivers conserve fuel?

However, there is a caveat here.

While energy can change forms, those forms need not be usable.

For example, consider the movement of a fan after it has been turned off. The fan will continue to spin for a while, using its remaining kinetic energy, before slowly coming to a stop.

Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (2)

Braking is one of the biggest sources of wasted kinetic energy in the form of heat, sound, and sometimes even light (Image credit: BLKstudio/Shutterstock)

Another example is a moving vehicle. It continues to move under its own power until its kinetic energy is no longer sufficient to overcome opposing forces such as friction, air resistance, and gravity. At some point it will stop. When the brakes are applied, this energy is lost in the form of heat, sound, and sometimes light. So there is energy conversion taking place, but not necessarily in a form that is useful to us.

Recovery of kinetic energy - a way out of the "waste" of energy

As the name suggests, kinetic energy recovery aims to reduce the amount of energy that is converted into useless and wasteful forms. To do this, it absorbs part of the energy generated during braking and stores it in an accumulator. When needed, this energy is channeled back into the vehicle's powertrain in the form of more usable power, without using more fuel.

This system, called KERS or Kinetic Energy Recovery System, was developed for use in Formula 1: the stored energy can be used as additional propulsion for racing cars and motorcycles or to extend the range of cars and even bicycles.

This extra power is provided without additional fuel consumption, making it a sustainable addition to both internal combustion engines and electric motors. Based on energy storage, there are four basic types of KERS:

mechanical chers

Mechanical KERS uses a flywheel-shaped mechanical accumulator to store part of the braking energy. This flywheel is different from the engine flywheel and is connected to the wheels through its own gear.

Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (3)

Mechanical kinetic energy recovery systems consist of a flywheel connected to the wheels via a CVT transmission (Image credit: Geni/Wikimedia Commons)

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When you need to slow down, the steering wheel connects to the wheels, causing it to spin. At the beginning of the braking process, the speed of the flywheel is greater than that of the flywheel. When the wheels are connected to the flywheel, they lose some of their kinetic energy to the flywheel, which effectively brakes. At the end of braking, the steering wheel spins faster than the wheels. When this energy is needed, the flywheel reconnects to the wheels, releasing the stored kinetic energy.

To make power transmission smooth, the KERS's wheels and steering wheel are linked by a continuously variable transmission, or CVT.

KERS electric

Electric kinetic energy recovery systems generate electricity from the braking movement, which is stored in an electric accumulator. These accumulators usually consist of 3 main parts. The first is a Motor Generator Unit (MGU) that converts braking energy into electrical energy.

Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (4)

Schematic of an electrical kinetic energy recovery system (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The second part is the PCU or Power Control Unit which is responsible for switching between the flow of power to and from the MGU. The third part is the accumulator itself, such as a battery or a capacitor. When braking, the MGU acts like a generator, converting kinetic energy into electrical energy. A rotor connected to the engine's crankshaft moves in a magnetic field. This generates electricity which is stored in the battery.

When additional power is needed, the PCU reverses the current address, releases it from the accumulator, and sends it to the MGU. The MGU acts like an engine, providing additional power to the engine without using additional fuel.

Hydraulic/pneumatic KERS

Hydraulic energy recovery systems are very similar to mechanical systems except for the choice of accumulators. Instead of flywheels, they use liquids like oils and gases to store energy. The system consists of a hydraulic unit that acts as a pump during braking to compress fluids using kinetic energy. When power demand increases, this unit acts like an engine, decompressing a fluid that releases energy to improve acceleration.

Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (5)

Diagram of a hydraulic system for kinetic energy recovery.


While each of the aforementioned systems is simple, they can be difficult to implement on their own in a given motor vehicle. Therefore, two or more energy recovery systems are often combined to meet different energy needs.

Advances in energy recovery

Modern energy recovery systems are an iteration of electric KERS and take other forms of energy waste, such as B. Waste Heat, out of their scope. In addition to a motor-generator unit for kinetic energy (MGU-K), they also contain a unit for thermal energy (MGU-H for short), which is installed in the exhaust stream of the engine to harness thermal energy.

(Video) When To Shift Gears For The Best Fuel Economy

Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (6)

Energy recovery systems give race cars a much-needed boost on the straights or coming out of slow corners (Image credit: cjmac/Shutterstock)

Higher speeds result in more heat and higher braking forces and consequently more energy storage in the ERS. These systems, currently found in F1 cars, can inject up to 120 KW (160 hp) of power for more than 30 seconds per lap.

Applications of kinetic energy recovery systems

Kinetic energy recovery systems were originally developed for internal combustion engine race cars. In addition to F1 racing, they are used in electric vehicles, where braking energy is harvested to improve the car's range.

Can you drive as fast as a race car and save fuel at the same time? (7)

Regenerative braking is one of the most useful applications of energy recovery systems, as it helps increase the range of electric vehicles.

Some systems also convert braking energy into electrical energy to charge the car's battery and power the car's devices such as lights, music system, gauges, etc. Bulky systems such as mechanical and hydraulic KERS have been used with great success in transportation such as buses and trucks.


Since performance and economy are not positively correlated variables, kinetic energy recovery is a good compromise. Its current versions are rudimentary at best and used exclusively in high-end and electric vehicles. However, this technology holds great promise for the future of sustainable mobility!

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(Video) Can You Modify A Car To Save Fuel? - Fifth Gear


Do you save fuel by driving faster? ›

Speeding increases fuel consumption and decreases fuel economy as a result of tire rolling resistance and air resistance. While vehicles reach optimal fuel economy at different speeds, gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 miles per hour (mph).

How do race car drivers save fuel? ›

There are two primary techniques for saving fuel: the driver can either change engine modes, or incorporate lifting and coasting. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, but they effectively achieve the same thing: completing the lap while saving fuel compared to running at 100%.

Do you save more fuel by driving slower? ›

You could also reduce how much you drive by carpooling or working from home. Finally—and this is the important one—you could just drive slower. Every car gets better gas mileage at 50 miles per hour than at 70.

What is the best speed to drive at to save fuel? ›

Typically, cars are most efficient at 45-50mph. As well as fuel economy differing from vehicle to vehicle, it is also dependent on a number of other factors such as tyre pressure, presence of roof racks, and driving style – all of which are covered in this guide.

Does race fuel last longer? ›

Race fuel typically lasts longer than everyday pump gas; however, the steps above will ensure your race gas is ready for fresh racing season in the spring. And be sure to check our Sunoco's website for more helpful information on racing fuel.

What car saves the most fuel? ›

Top 10 most fuel-efficient cars to buy in 2023
  • Toyota Prius – 67.0mpg. ...
  • Suzuki Swift – 64.0mpg. ...
  • Toyota Corolla Touring Sports – 63.8mpg. ...
  • Hyundai Ioniq – 60.0mpg. ...
  • Mercedes-Benz E300 de – 217.3mpg. ...
  • Peugeot 208 1.5 Blue HDi – 71.4mpg. ...
  • Vauxhall Corsa 1.5 Turbo D – 70.6mpg. ...
  • Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI SE – 68.9mpg.

Do you burn more gas with the AC on? ›

Does AC affect gas mileage? As a general answer, a Consumer Reports study found that, yes, running the AC does reduce gas mileage. Here are some tips to help you balance your fuel consumption with comfort. Generally, the air conditioner uses gas, so use it wisely.

Does AC use gas? ›

Yes: The alternator, which is powered by the engine, is what provides energy to the air conditioner. The engine runs on fuel, meaning you are using up gas when you run the AC.

What wastes gas in a car? ›

- Driving fast increases drag, which increases fuel consumption. - Braking excessively wastes gas. - Turn off your vehicle you are waiting, excess idling is a major waste of gas. - Remove unneeded car racks and carriers.

Does cruise control save gas? ›

Generally speaking, yes. Cruise control can help you become more fuel-efficient and can help you save an average of 7-14% on gas thanks to its ability to maintain a continuous speed. In comparison, the constant change in acceleration and deceleration of the driver placing their foot over the pedals can eat more gas.

Is 70mph fuel-efficient? ›

The average fuel economy decrease from 50 to 60 mph was 12.4%; from 60 to 70 mph the average decrease was an additional 14%; and from 70 to 80 mph the average decrease was another 15.4%. The best fuel economy is typically obtained when the vehicle is traveling at the lowest speed in the vehicle's highest gear.

How long does 110 octane last? ›

Stored correctly, 3 – 5 years.

What fuel lasts the longest? ›

Propane. Propane will never go bad. It has an indefinite shelf life and will not degrade through any natural process.

What octane gas lasts the longest? ›

93 octane fuels are more refined and contain more stable hydrocarbons. These stable hydrocarbons can last 2-3 times longer than 87 octane fuel. Even in proper storage 87 octane gas can start to degrade in 3 months, 93 octane fuel should last closer to 9 months before degradation is noticeable.

What wastes more gas windows or AC? ›

Air conditioning on both vehicles reduced the miles per gallon more than running with the windows open. The TV show Mythbusters ran an experiment with two identical SUVs on a test track, and the SUV with the windows down traveled 15 miles more before running out of gas at 45 miles per hour.

Does rolling the windows down waste gas? ›

The key to knowing which option is more fuel efficient is understanding how each method requires your car to use extra fuel. Having your windows rolled down increases wind resistance, also known as drag, which slows your car down. As a result, it requires more fuel to run.

Does turning off AC in car save gas? ›

Does Turning Off the AC Save Gas? If you turn off your AC and roll your windows down on Burlington highways, it actually uses up more gas than if you kept your AC on. This is because the drag that is produced by rolled-down windows forces your engine to work harder to get you where you're going!

Does a indoor AC use gas? ›

The refrigerant warms and evaporates. It enters the compressor, and the cycle starts again. All the components in this air conditioner are powered by electricity. There are no gas-powered air conditioner units.

Which car AC gas is best? ›

In most cars that are on the road today, R134a refrigerant makes the A/C system blow cold on hot days. Selected for its low flammability and safety, as well as because it's kinder to the environment, almost every car built since 1994 is equipped with R134 refrigerant.

Does using air in car waste gas? ›

In short, yes. Everything you use in your car needs the energy to run. If your car doesn't have a hybrid drive system, that energy is coming from your gas tank via your engine. Keep in mind, though, the energy it takes to run your air conditioning is far less than the energy it takes to run your car.

What burns the most gas? ›

Here, our fleet fuel card company shares some seemingly small things that can increase your gas consumption and force you to fill up more often:
  • Accelerating Quickly. ...
  • Braking Hard. ...
  • Speeding. ...
  • Under/Over-Inflating Your Tires. ...
  • Driving Short Distances. ...
  • Excessively Idling.
Oct 10, 2017

Why is 55 mph the most efficient speed? ›

So, why 55? Well, it has to do with wind resistance, actually. It turns out that when it comes to wind resistance, at 30 mph wind resistance is four times as great compared to when a car is going 30 mph.

What burns gas faster? ›

Aggressive driving, exceeding normal speed limits and excessive idling increase fuel consumption.

When should you not use cruise control? ›

Only use your cruise control when the roadways are dry and clean, and never during rainy or icy conditions. Also, never use cruise control in city or congested traffic as the decreased control of your vehicle could contribute to an accident.

Does idling your engine for more than 10 seconds wastes fuel? ›

Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more emissions that contribute to smog and climate change than stopping and restarting your engine does. Researchers estimate that idling from heavy-duty and light- duty vehicles combined wastes about 6 billion gallons of fuel annually.

Does cruise control drain battery? ›

Whether you drive an electric, petrol or diesel car, using cruise control can save on battery. Constant driving speed is highly correlated with higher fuel efficiency. This only applies to flat roads, however. On hilly roads cruise control can use more energy.

What mpg is most fuel-efficient? ›

These Are The 10 Gas-Powered Cars With The Highest MPG According To The EPA
  1. 1 2022 Hyundai Ioniq Blue – 59 MPG.
  2. 2 2022 Toyota Prius Eco – 56 MPG. ...
  3. 3 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Blue – 54 MPG. ...
  4. 4 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue – 52 MPG. ...
  5. 5 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE – 52 MPG. ...
  6. 6 Honda INSIGHT – 52 MPG. ...
  7. 7 Toyota Corolla Hybrid – 52 MPG. ...
Oct 19, 2022

What is the best fuel-efficient rpm? ›

Between 1,300 and 1,500 RPM is the most fuel-efficient engine speed, or what some would call the “sweet spot.”

Do you get better gas mileage when you drive over 60 mph? ›

Highway driving that exceeds 60 miles per hour uses more fuel. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every 5 miles driven above the 60 mph level is equivalent to paying 20 extra cents per gallon for gas.

How do F1 drivers save fuel? ›

Lift your foot off the accelerator, and the car will continue rolling for a while and slow down, using less energy to break. “This is the 'lift and coast' technique used by Formula 1 drivers.” After 2014, a new engine rule was introduced meaning that cars had to be limited to 100kg of fuel during races.

How do f1 cars save fuel? ›

Fuel saving such as lifting off the throttle before the braking zone going into corners (lift and coast), as well as changing settings in the car to decrease fuel consumption stops the drivers from being able to go flat-out, somewhat neutralising the racing.

Is car racing a waste of fuel? ›

Racing is not a waste of gas – in fact, it can actually be a very efficient use of fuel. Auto racing uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of precious fossil fuel each year, but this doesn't have to be the case.

What do race cars use for fuel? ›

Formula 1 racing still uses gasoline, but NASCAR and Indycar use a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. The fuel used in NASCAR vehicles is mostly gasoline with a small amount of ethanol (E15), and the fuel used in Indycar racing is mostly ethanol with a small amount of gasoline (E85).

What is the fuel rule in F1? ›

1,000+ horsepower – with less fuel used

In 2013, 160kg of fuel was used in a race; in 2020, that stood at 100kg; and in 2026 F1 is aiming for each car to use just 70kg of fuel during a Grand Prix. Moreover, F1 is shifting from controlling the fuel flow through a maximum mass flow rate, to a maximum energy flow rate.

How many gallons does a F1 car hold? ›

Formula 1 Fuel Tanks Today

These tanks are oddly-shaped for seating in the back end of the monocoque and ribbed to keep the over 30 sections of the tank intact. However, this space-saving and safety-driven design can hold a whopping 30 gallons, or 110 liters or kilograms of fuel, the maximum allowed for a race.

Can F1 drivers run out of fuel? ›

When it comes to running a racing car, allowing it to run out of fuel is a failure of the most fundamental kind. Yet F1 teams run into exactly that kind of problem with surprising frequency. Already this season we've seen Mark Webber run out of fuel during qualifying in China.

How do Formula 1 cars not run out of gas? ›

Within a typical F1 car's fuel system, there will be some small-ish surge collectors, possibly one in each corner of the tank. As the car brakes or accelerates, turns left or right, these small, perhaps one-litre, reservoirs will fill up. Then, small low-pressure pumps will pump that fuel into a collector tank.

Why do F1 cars not refuel? ›

The rules and regulations in Formula 1 racing do not allow the cars to refuel between the race. FIA decided to ban the refuelling process from enhancing the crew's safety and reducing costs. Even though the teams require clever strategies and tactics to manage without refuelling, it is a critical safety step.

What happens when an F1 car runs out of fuel? ›

If you run out of fuel during the race your car will be retired and will receive zero points.

Does speeding waste fuel? ›

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic.

Does revving or racing an engine wastes gas? ›

Revving Wastes Gas

That can mean a big dent in your wallet if you aren't careful. When you rev your car engine, you cause your engine to work harder. This pulls more air in and pushes more fluids throughout your engine. All of that takes gas, which means you might find yourself at the pump sooner than you expect.

How long does a race car fuel cell last? ›

How long do your fuel cells last? The average fuel cell has a life expectancy of between 7-15 years.

Is racing fuel better? ›

Race fuel has a much higher octane than pump gas because those engines have higher compression ratios. Most new cars today can run on regular 87 octane because those engines are designed for that kind of fuel. Race cars, however, tend to have higher compression ratios so they thrive on the higher octane fuels.

What is the best fuel for racing? ›

Simply the best non-oxygenated unleaded racing gasoline on the market, C10 does not contain any metal compounds and will not harm catalytic converters or oxygen sensors. Its performance record includes many past SCCA and Ferrari World Challenge championships.

How many gallons of gas does NASCAR use every year? ›

It's got 15 percent ethanol, it's unleaded, and it delivers more horsepower than ordinary gas. Nascar goes through about 450,000 gallons of it in a racing season.


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