Everything you need to know about IndyCar’s mid-season hybrid debut

IndyCar made good on its December 2023 promise to introduce the late-hybrid system midway through the 2024 season, revealing a host of details like how its revamp will work in the process of the system's debut at Mid-Ohio in July. .

The introduction of hybrid IndyCar has faced a number of delays. Initially, it delayed a new engine for 2021 to add a hybrid engine for the following year, then the Covid pandemic pushed that to 2023.

It then chose not to offer a new engine – a 2.4-litre model – and transferred construction and development of the hybrid car to the two series manufacturers, Chevrolet and Honda.

However, in December it announced another postponement but committed to bringing it forward at an unspecified time after the Indianapolis 500 in May.

On Tuesday — the first day of Indy 500 practice, though it rained most of the day — the series revealed some key new details regarding the hybrid, including its introduction at the Mid-Ohio race on July 5-7. .

“The strength of this unsung partnership between Chevrolet and Honda has pushed this innovative project onto the grid in 2024,” said IndyCar President Jay Frye.

“IndyCar's hybrid powertrain will bring an exciting new element to the NTT IndyCar Series with additional power and overtaking options. We can't wait to see the beginning of this new era at Mid-Ohio.”

How does the IndyCar hybrid system work?

IndyCar's hybrid system is a different setup from other major racing series, which primarily uses batteries to store energy generated by braking and engine braking, which can then be redeployed by the driver or car, often referred to as regen.

IndyCar will have renewable energy, but the way the energy is stored will be different.

Instead of having big heavy batteries, it has a supercapacitor, which doesn't hold as much power as a battery, but is really good at giving strong, short, sharp bursts of power. Ideal for boosting power in racing.

IndyCar has already introduced a host of new lightweight parts for this season to accommodate the additional weight and to effectively pack the hybrid into the new bellhousing.

Inside this bell – between the engine and the gearbox – there is a low-voltage motor-generator unit and an energy storage system, made up of 20 ultracapacitors.

During the regeneration period, the MGU builds up energy, and the ESS stores it.

How will Regaine work?

The car will be able to automatically regenerate power by braking, or the driver will be able to pull a paddle to manually activate power regeneration, but this will slow the car, so it must be used tactically.

As for the distribution of the hybrid energy saving, this will be entirely controlled by the driver. So, while in Formula 1, the car decides when to use hybrid power, in IndyCar, the driver will control it entirely via the paddle.

Cars will still have the drive to pass the boost system as they do now, and that will be separate from the deployment of hybrid power. It will still be limited to a number of seconds per race, currently 150/200 depending on the track.

Is it a good idea to start in the middle of the season?

Inevitably, introducing a new engine formula mid-season will cause struggles.

Especially in the middle of a difficult situation with parts. In general, teams reported various parts being out of stock or taking a while to arrive, anything from the chassis to the sides and everything in between.

Add to that the hybrid system – and there was concern last year about getting enough parts available to the field, leading to hybrid delays – and it paints a worrying picture.

Ultimately, the championship will be decided in the second half of the season, and if reliability issues from the new parts cost someone in the title fight, that would be a bad thing.

However, IndyCar and the manufacturers are telling everyone that this is when it will be introduced, and none of the three parties would want a situation where anything bad happens when their reputation is on the line.

They certainly wouldn't if they weren't prepared for everything to come as a group.

A huge boost for the fans watching the races

One huge thing the hybrid will do for IndyCar is cut out unnecessary cautions where the yellow flag is deployed when a car stops on track.

With the current car, a manual starter rod would have to be inserted into the back to restart, but now the hybrid will act as the restart mechanism.

This will also help in crowded qualifying sessions when past drivers' qualifying laps are ruined by red flags of parked cars spinning. The current IndyCar is very difficult to keep going after a spin, and there is a knack for keeping it going, so this will take the pressure off.

Fewer drivers were destroyed by qualifying and fewer stop-race cautions in races thanks to this device. I did well.

Has equivalence been achieved in testing?

The short answer is no, the hybrid will not be introduced with all teams doing the same amount of testing, but there will be full open testing in Milwaukee on Tuesday, June 11.

This will give all teams the opportunity to run the final spec in the month before it debuts.

The hybrid has been running since August 2023, and Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing have certainly done the lion's share of testing — something that has been a controversial topic for smaller teams that haven't gotten the same amount of time on the track.

In IndyCar's defense, these two teams have the most resources and ability to run massive mid-season testing because they have enough structure and personnel to make it work, something smaller teams will struggle with.

The Milwaukee test appears to be the best chance to settle in during a very busy season as there is not time to do a lot of testing right now.

What did the engine manufacturers say?

“More than a quarter of Honda’s total sales in 2023 – nearly 300,000 vehicles – were Honda CR-V and Accord hybrids,” said David Salters, Honda Racing Corporation president (and former Ferrari F1 engine chief).

It's a good quote that explains why this mid-season introduction is so important for Honda and IndyCar.

Salters added, “Bringing electric cars to IndyCar in Central Ohio further aligns our racing efforts with Honda’s passenger car production as we operate multiple manufacturing and R&D facilities in Central Ohio, and employ more than 13,000 employees there.”

Eric Warren, GM's executive director of motorsports competition, took the opportunity to praise the testing process.

“We support IndyCar's decisions throughout this process to carefully study the test data and ensure that when hybrid technology is incorporated, operation and performance are exactly what is expected,” he said.

“This approach has given IndyCar and the engine manufacturers the opportunity to ensure the high level of competition continues uninterrupted.”


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