Since 2012, IndyCar has used 2.2 liter turbocharged V6s from Honda and Chevrolet to power every car in the field. These engines brought turbocharging back after a long absence, increased the power available with the push-to-pass system, and worked to make the racing even better. But they’re getting old.
While the series had previously announced a change to 2.4 liter V6s with a goal of at least 900 horsepower by 2021, the series is now pushing that back a year and adding a new element to the formula: hybridization. This new formula for 2022 will now coincide with the introduction of a new chassis, making that year transformational for the series.
IndyCar is calling this a “single-source hybrid system,” which should mean that one supplier will provide the multi-phase motor, inverter, and electric storage (which will come from brake regen) in order to ensure parity across engine manufacturers.
The hybrids will serve a few purposes. First, they will eliminate the need for an external engine starter, since the onboard electric system will now be able to start the cars. That alone is a huge benefit for the drivers and the safety team. If a driver spins, he can get restarted quickly and back in the race, no need to wait for someone to plug into the back. It also keeps the safety team from being exposed to danger on track restarting a car while other cars are circulating.
It should also make push-to-pass more effective by giving even more power to the system and assist the engines in producing more than the original 900 horsepower goal. While now drivers are given 200 seconds of the push-to-pass boost per race, the hybrids could be about energy management, giving a leg up to drivers who can take advantage of regen more effectively than others on the grid.
The hybrids will also form a more direct connection to road cars, which is something IndyCar needs if they’re going to attract a third engine supplier. It’s no secret that the series, Honda, and Chevrolet have been lobbying to get a third manufacturer into the series for a few seasons now without success. There is the possibility that IndyCar’s meetings with possible participants stalled when the possible engine providers found out there was no way to link the racing to hybrid road cars. Delaying the formula a year and introducing hybrids will allow IndyCar to reopen discussions with automakers and hopefully get another brand in the series.
This series has some of the most exciting racing you can see anywhere right now, so hopefully this new formula will continue that tradition in IndyCar’s new hybrid era.
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