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Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 Milwaukee Indyfest and a Joule of an Idea

With the Milwaukee Indycar race being the final leg of our 12-day family summer vacation, you'll forgive me for not posting since just before the Indy 500 race weekend.So much has already transpired and been written by others since my last post for me to fathom another recap so I'll simply jump to the here and now.


In short, my first trip to the Milwaukee Mile was great. Not only did it cap a terrific extended family vacation, but I left quite satisfied at the ease we had in doing most everything in and about the track. Luck perhaps, but I feel more than comfortable considering the trip again for 2013. Also, I found the Milwaukee Indyfest plan and execution quite good for the venue and would encourage them to adopt the same 'event-based' approach in the future. With kids, we took advantage of the midway and family fun zone which added much value for us in addition to the racing event itself. Full marks for Andretti and his team for producing an enjoyable event around the race.  


I have noted in the past on this blog that outside of the Indy 500, Indycar must create an 'event' at each stop to draw more than just adults interested solely in Indycar racing or  relatively uninterested persons there because a corporation doles out the free tickets and swag. Andretti Sports Marketing did a terrific job on an abbreviated timeframe in my opinion.


And now, for what may be the best little gem I found during the Indyfest... The Joule


I am the first to admit that any sort of engineer I am not, but also in previous posts here and here, I contend the series needs to consider developing its platform around propulsion system competition. In light of the recent victory by a 'hybrid' engine at the 24 hours of LeMans, efficient propulsion systems will only continue to become a larger factor in passenger car decision-making. If Indycar can become a showcase for a variety of propulsion systems and hybrids of those with an emphasis on efficient power, it can entrench itself in the automotive racing landscape of the future.


With that in mind, I was struck by a non-descript booth in the Fan Village of the Milwaukee Indyfest. Hosted by the Milwaukee School of Engineering, this group displayed an open-wheeled vehicle used in a recent competition utilizing battery electric and internal combustion motors to propel their vehicle on (what I recall in a brief conversation as, but don't quote me) 20 megajoules of energy equivalent over a 22km street course. First team to cross the finish line with the given amount of energy available, wins. 


Apparently the Joule is the measure for multiple forms of energy (combustibles, electric, etc.) I've been longing to discover as a means of having an equivalent measure of energy to apply to multiple forms of racing propulsion. The megajoules used in the above contest was described to me as the equivalent of energy that would be provided (if used entirely as gasoline) by approximately one-eighth gallon of standard 87-octane automobile fuel in an internal combustion system to go 13 miles (roughly 104 mpg) or taken as all-electric power would equate to approximately 5.5 kilowatt hours. The MSOE car utilized both battery electric motors and a small internal combustion motor to propel their vehicle.


I was fascinated by the possibilities this type of racing could present and really believe it is the wave of the future which should be embraced as quickly as possible. Does it need to be the primary racing form for Indycar now? Not initially, but could be addressed as an experimental class that races concurrently at several of Indycar's variety of venues, with the future possibilities to be explored from there. 


Ultimately, I see the continued challenge to develop the most efficient of multiple forms of propulsion as what will become the prime focus for manufacturers and producers of mobility vehicles. Where brute speed was once king, things eventually changed and the future almost certainly holds the continued refinement of efficient power. The DeltaWing begins to scratch the surface from the physical load side of the equation. The propulsion system is the other.


I would love nothing more than for Indycar to become that major player in developing or becoming the series that allows these companies to showcase the newest in propulsion technology. 


I also hope I (or at least my kids) will be around to see it.

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