The FIA World Rally Championship will undergo significant environmental changes in 2022 when a portfolio of new technical regulations lead the series into a more sustainable future.
New plug-in hybrid-powered Rally1 competition cars, 100 per cent fossil-free fuel, sustainable energy supplies and safer spaceframe chassis are part of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and WRC Promoter’s commitment to a greener future.
The key changes, some of the biggest and most far-reaching in the championship’s near-half century history, are:
WRC top class Rally1 to be powered by hybrid technology from 2022
Following the FIA’s PurposeDriven strategy, the WRC mandates hybrid technology for the series’ top Rally1 class from the 2022 season.
All manufacturers involved in the top tier of global rallying agreed on a common hybrid unit supplied by Compact Dynamics. The German-based company also provides hybrid components to other top level racing series like Formula 1, Le Mans Prototype Class 1 and Formula E.
Weighing 84kg, Compact Dynamics’ high-performance P3-topology hybrid system accommodates a motor-generator unit (MGU), control unit and battery in a compact housing, thereby delivering maximum power density. The battery for the hybrid system is supplied by Compact Dynamics’ partner, Kreisel Electric, based in Austria.
The unit consists of a 3.9kWh capacity battery pack which is coupled to the MGU, delivering 100kW (134hp) of power and 180Nm of torque during acceleration.
During braking and coasting, the system recuperates energy normally lost and stores it in the battery. If necessary, the battery can also be recharged by an external power supply (plug-in hybrid) during service breaks. To charge from 20 to 80 per cent will take around 20 minutes using the dedicated units.
The MGU, which operates at up to 12,000rpm, the battery, which operates at up to 750 volts, and the inverter control unit are sealed in a carbon fibre housing to resist possible forces and impacts in the event of an accident. The unit is designed to withstand a 70G impact.
It has its own warning light system independent of the car’s electrical system. If the light is green, the system is operating normally. A red light signals a possible system error and care must be taken to check the system. A declutch system is also installed. An issue with the hybrid unit won’t stop the Rally1 car.
The power from the MGU will be used in addition to the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The internal combustion engine (ICE) is a carryover from the existing World Rally Cars, delivering roughly 280kW (380hp) of power. The hybrid unit is connected to the propeller shaft and therefore to the four-wheel drive system.
The strategy for the use of the electric energy has to be implemented into the engine control unit (ECU). The driver will not have the opportunity to manually activate the extra power, for example by means of a push-to-pass system. Teams will be offered a number of strategies for using the extra power during each stage through software programmes.
The unique Rally1 hybrid system has three principal modes:
Full Electric Mode
In Full Electric Mode, depending on road conditions, Rally1 cars will have up to 20km of full electric range (based on WLTC road car cycle). The power is restricted to 50 per cent to extend battery life. Full Electric Mode will be available to teams on all road sections as they choose to use it.
Additionally, there will be dedicated passages marked in the road book where teams must use Full Electric Mode, for example around the service park and potentially other built-up areas.
Stage Start Mode
At the start of each special stage of a WRC event, the full power of the hybrid system will be available to release 1000 kilojoules of energy to support the petrol engine for approximately the first 10 seconds, or until the driver releases the throttle or presses the brake.
During a special stage, teams and drivers will be able to create up to three personalised ‘maps’ to decide how to deploy the 100kW hybrid power.
These maps will be based on driver input only (throttle pedal and brake). They will allow the release of energy in a way that is tailored to the driver’s style and the road conditions.
The amount of power released with each press of the throttle will be decided by the length of the stage and the state of charge (SOC) of the battery. For example, a short stage and a full battery means the electric power can be delivered longer with each throttle application. A long stage means there is less energy available at each throttle application.
The hybrid unit automatically recovers electrical power when the throttle pedal is released and under braking (regeneration phase or ‘regen’). The MGU additionally brakes the car and charges the battery.
To reuse hybrid boost, drivers must accumulate enough regeneration energy to create what is called a ‘valid regen’. After each valid regen and the next time the drivers press the throttle, they will have electric power available, depending on the parameters selected by their choice of map.
Drivers can create up to three maps for the regeneration phases as well. This offers a chance to tailor how and when the regen is utilised as this will have the same effect as engine braking on the car.
The recuperation by braking is limited to 30kW, no matter how hard a driver brakes. The power available under acceleration is 100kW, so over the length of a stage the battery power will deplete.
The hybrid unit will be pre-programmed according to each individual stage distance in kilometres and will manage the duration of power available to try to ensure there is power accessible throughout the stage.
The unit’s internal management system controls the driver’s individual maps and manages the safety elements. If any mechanical issues occur, for example a rise in battery cell temperature or an overspeed of the MGU, the unit will compensate and store the issue to the data recording unit. It will also send an advanced warning to the Technical Team.
The future Rally1 cars will not only put hybrid power to the ultimate test in the gruelling environment of the WRC, but also prove this technology is capable of delivering thrilling performance.
In addition, the new Rally1 cars have the ability to travel parts of liaison sections, for example the service park or built-up areas, using clean electric power only.
WRC events to use fossil-free fuel in the future
A hydrocarbon-based fossil-free fuel will be used during FIA World Rally Championship events from 2022. With the decision to use renewable fuels from P1 Racing Fuels, the WRC opens a new chapter in rallying’s journey to a carbon neutral future.
The WRC reduces carbon emissions in alignment with the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. The FIA and WRC Promoter can also supplement the introduction of hybrid technology for Rally1 with a fuel that uses renewable materials to reduce net CO2 emissions.
By blending synthetic and bio-degradable elements, P1 Racing Fuels produces a fuel that is 100 per cent sustainable. The cutting-edge performance fuel will comply with all quality standards for racing fuels and will also meet automakers’ requirements for road car fuel.
Bio-fuels are produced from biological waste, for example originating from the agricultural industry. Synthetic fuels, also called power-to-liquid or e-fuels as an abbreviation of ‘produced with electricity’, are manufactured from scratch, mainly using hydrogen and carbon.
Hydrogen is sourced by splitting water (chemically H2O) into its atomic components of hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) by means of electric energy, preferably from renewable sources like wind or water power.
The carbon part can be extracted from polluted air, for example in emissions from industrial plants. As a positive side effect, the production of e-fuels for the WRC removes carbon from the air and re-uses it.
Spaceframe structure significantly increases crew safety
To further enhance crew safety, the 2022 Rally1 cars follow a completely different design philosophy from the current World Rally Cars.
In nearly all current categories of rallying, including World Rally Cars, the pressed steel bodyshell of a related production model forms the backbone of a competition car.
In Rally1 , the bodyshell is replaced by a specially-designed, FIA- regulated tubular structure made of high-performance steel tubes. If necessary, the body of the related production car can be scaled up or down. This new approach transforms the Rally1 cars into purpose-built prototypes.
FIA homologation crash tests confirm a significant increase in safety in all simulated accident scenarios for Rally1 cars compared to current World Rally Cars.
The side impact with a 10-inch pole – the equivalent of hitting a tree – showed a reduction of 51 per cent for the intrusion into the passenger compartment in the door area.
In the area of the spaceframe’s main rollbar, the addition of a second lateral rollbar meant the intrusion of the pole was reduced by 38 per cent. The pole test for the rear impact showed the same improvement.
The roof section of the spaceframe – which must withstand impacts usually seen during a barrel roll – can absorb energy up to 115 per cent better than a current WRC bodyshell reinforced by a traditional roll cage.
A frontal impact against a rigid obstruction resulted in 70 per cent less intrusion in the bulkhead area protecting the occupants’ feet and legs.
The common elements of the spaceframe of the new-era Rally1 cars have been designed with the additional hybrid unit in mind. The system is already protected by a ballistic-strength carbon fibre case.
The whole unit including inverter and battery management unit is mounted behind the driver and co-driver seats, considered the safest place in a competition car. Radiators to remove the heat generated during the hybrid system operation are located in the rear of the cars.
Electricity from sustainable sources to power WRC service parks
According to the road map outlined in the FIA’s PurposeDriven strategy, motorsport events must reach zero-net emissions by 2030.
One important step the FIA World Rally Championship will take in this direction is to make the energy supply for service parks sustainable. As the WRC visits countries with infrastructures developed to fundamentally different stages, a step-by-step approach will be implemented.
Already for 2022, the goal is to provide service parks with electric energy from renewable sources, at least on European events. Initially, green electric power will be available to charge the batteries of Rally1 cars.
Where the local grid capacity is insufficient and the WRC has to bring its own generators, they will run on fossil-free bio-diesel. In the future, those power plants will be fuel cell generators running on hydrogen.
Any surplus power will be fed back into the local grid, helping the local community and thus boosting the FIA World Rally Championship’s reputation and goodwill.