Rather than storing energy in concentrated areas, McLaren would use ‘thin batteries’ that would be integrated into the vehicle’s crash structure. These would store energy from brake energy regeneration, solar energy capture and inductive charging loops embedded in the track surface.
Solar energy could be used to supplement existing onboard systems, or deployed as a boost option.
Electricity would be stored and distributed within the vehicle’s structure and bodywork, where it would always be close to where it is both generated and used.
Electrodes fitted to the surface of the car’s wings would electronically control the bodywork, enabling downforce to be dialled in for cornering, then dialled out on the straights. By running a car with inherently ‘stalled’ aero, powerfully charged electrodes could be switched on into corners to turn the air around the wings into plasma.
“Plasma flow control would require quite a lot of power, but, in the future, we could take power from the engine and divert it to charge the system,” said Geoff McGrath, chief innovation officer at McLaren Applied Technologies.
“It’s banned in the current F1 regs - but it’s great for achieving high top speeds, particularly at circuits like Monza, where you want to shed all the downforce along the straights and then turn it back on again for the corners.”
The MP4-X would also be fitted with advanced, adaptive shape-memory alloys that allow an electrical current to pass through them so they change shape under specific loads or particular conditions. “A morphing wing could adapt behind other cars,” said McGrath. “Sensor-driven control systems could adapt the wing.”
While the current Formula 1 regulations restrict underbody aerodynamics, the McLaren MP4-X makes full use of them. It features huge venturi tunnels beneath the floor to create a powerful ‘ground effect’, pulling the car closer to the track at high speeds.
Removing the internal combustion engine and fuel tank makes it possible for designers to exploit the underbody even more effectively.
Areas of the car that are prone to impacts could be constructed from negative-stiffness material structures. These have the ability to attenuate energy transferred in an impact, but can also recover their original shapes and properties, making them more effective in multiple impact events than the carbonfibre used in today’s single-seater racing cars.
The MP4-X would be fitted with in-car diagnostics, making it able to monitor its own structural condition, instantly providing information to the engineers in the event of a failure or accident.
Formula 1 has been debating the merits of closed cockpits for some time, and the MP4-X adopts a sleek interpretation of how it might be adopted by the sport. The MP4-X is fitted with cameras that feed imagery back to the driver’s helmet. Using an augmented vision display, the driver would enjoy an unrestricted 360deg view of the surroundings.
Instrumentation would be replaced by a head-up display (HUD), which would also provide the driver with alerts to warn of a closing competitor, caution flag or debris on the circuit. The car would also use helmet-mounted display systems (HDMS) to see the location of other competitors, or to present information relayed between team mates.