Holden hot shop HSV appears to be developing Formula One-style hybrid technology to boost the performance of its future V8s while reducing fuel consumption.
A clue to the likelihood that HSV will mate electric power assistance to possibly downsized engines within a few years is a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) it is developing for a proposed racing version of the ClubSport R8.
Holden's performance car partner has built a pair of race-spec R8s that it will pitch as the basis for a cost-effective one-make V8 series in India.
One of the cars, developed in conjunction with HSV's motor sport division, Walkinshaw Racing, is due to feature a KERS power booster modeled on F1's "push-to-pass" system.
In F1, the high-tech racers have high-capacity battery packs that provide a short boost of extra power at the push of a button.
Using mainly advanced lightweight lithium-ion batteries, KERS stores energy recovered each lap by regenerative braking systems, which convert heat into electricity.
F1 drivers use KERS in conjunction with the Drag Reduction System (DRS), which increases straightline speed by lowering the rear wing's wind resistance, to slingshot past rivals or for extra performance to defend their positions.
Although DRS is limited to nominated straightaways, the KERS power boost can be used anywhere, although its deployment is limited to 6.67 seconds per lap and output is capped at 60kW, or about half the power of a small car.
HSV revealed that it is working with an unnamed supplier to equip one of the demonstrator Clubsport R8 racers with KERS "as a push-to-pass on extended economy".
While the description is vague – and HSV is still to respond to a request for further details of the hybrid system – it is apparently advanced enough to be ready to try.
"We have the parts and a supplier excited to work with us on this technology," HSV chief engineer Joel Stoddart said.
HSV first flagged it was considering hybrid engines back in 2007.
As well as lithium-ion batteries, KERS can utilise supercapacitors and flywheels to store regenerated energy.
Fairfax Media is aware that HSV has access to Chinese-developed hybrid technology – using advanced, low-cost battery packs and electric motors – that it is investigating for use in future models.
A KERS-style electric power boost available in short bursts would enable HSV to increase the performance of its V8-only models without increasing engine capacity or resorting to a supercharger, both of which would increase fuel consumption.
A hybrid powertrain would also give HSVs a "green" point of difference from Holden's own Commodore SS and Commodore SS-V sports models, which each generation close the gap to HSV's offerings.
The difference is expected to be even smaller when Holden unveils the sophisticated new VF Commodore next March, putting pressure on HSV to differentiate its "F-Series" range.
HSV is expected to update its range at or about the same time as Holden steps up to the VF Commodore, although the company is tight-lipped through fear of impacting sales of the just-released 25th anniversary HSV models that add more features.
Rumours of what engines the new HSV models will use have been rife for more than two years, with a supercharged version of the new Chevrolet V8 considered the most likely option. It could also sell alongside a tweaked version of the existing engine.
Adopting a hybrid powertrain would also allow HSV to adopt the latest Chevrolet V8, which has been downsized from 6.2 to 5.5 litres, and within a few years offer a KERS-boosted performance increase without a fuel economy penalty.
An on-demand electric assist would cut acceleration times by unleashing energy stored during braking and deceleration.
The Walkinshaw Racing-liveried Clubsport R8 racers will be shown to wealthy Indian businessmen enthusiasts at a demonstration day in December.
The brainchild of HSV heir Ryan Walkinshaw, HSV says the race-modified road cars have been developed for a "potential one-make series in India", with further interest in "another two Asian markets".
Powered by a 400kW uprated version of the LS3 6.2-litre V8, the HSV ClubSport R8 racers feature V8 Supercar-style front and rear bodywork and rear wing, an FIA-approved roll cage and safety seats and harnesses, and a V8 Supercar-type electronic instrumentation.
Both the India-bound demonstrators, which ride on 18x9-inch race wheels wrapped in 265x18 slick tyres, have been tested extensively by the Walkinshaw-owned Holden Racing Team's triple Bathurst 1000 winner Garth Tander.
HSV has also not responded to a request for ballpark pricing for the proposed R8 racer or the location in India of the December demonstration to potential buyers.
-Fairfax News Australia
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