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Infiniti Q60 Black S prototype testing commences

Back to black: Technology from the Project Black S Concept could work its way into road cars, but not in the short term, according to Infiniti’s product boss.

Hybrid Infiniti with F1 energy-recovery tech takes a step closer to production

Infiniti logo28 Sep 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in HONG KONG

INFINITI has revealed that prototype testing of the hybrid technology central to the Q60 Black S Concept commenced earlier this month for a possible production-car application, as the company looks to leverage the engineering knowledge gained in its Formula One partnership with Renault.

While still in development for the time being, the company is confident that a variation of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) used in Renault’s F1 campaign could be transferred to mainstream production in the not-too-distant future.

According to Infiniti vice-president of product strategy Francois Bancon, no decision has been made as to when the Q60 Black S would be built if at all, adding that KERS – which stores the kinetic energy that is usually lost during braking to a flywheel and then deployed cleanly as an electric boost when extra power is required – is prohibitively expensive and complicated in its present F1 form.

“I don’t know (when it will make production),” he told GoAuto at Infiniti’s company headquarters in Hong Kong last week.

“We are now developing this with Renault on paper, and if it works, because believe me it is a big gap and it is not so simple, we can possibly investigate making some kind of limited edition, but at the moment we have no idea (about production timing).”

Although the 2017 Geneva motor show concept’s 298kW 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 can be boosted by 25 per cent – to around 373kW – thanks to KERS, Mr Bancon admitted that nobody within Infiniti or Renault is certain that KERS can translate to road cars economically or reliably at this stage.

“The idea is we are making some prototype tests of a bunch of solutions, and when in six months when we have more feedback and knowledge we may decide that it is viable,” he said.

“I don’t even know if it works. We decided just last week to move ahead in a prototype to check all this. You know, with F1 technology, it is black or white it can work perfectly or it can be a disaster. It’s not a production technology yet, but it could be, and I hope it could work. But we are working very hard on it.”

One thing that Mr Bancon is more certain about is where KERS can be most efficiently applied – to lightweight sportscars and grand tourers rather than heavy crossovers.

“It should be on the Q60 because you cannot do (KERS) on a big car if you want to get the best benefit because anything like a QX70 would be too heavy,” he explained.

Infiniti’s involvement with Renault F1 as an engineering partner rather than simply as a sponsor as it had been with the Red Bull team from 2013 to 2015 is seen as a useful breeding ground for developing and improving technological efficiencies that can be applied to future production vehicles.

“The collaboration with Renault F1 wasn’t so much about big strategy and intention behind it,” Mr Bancon said. “After four years with Red Bull in F1 as a sponsor, we decided it was a stupid thing just to put a sticker behind a car… and we wanted to change this. And this decision happened just as Renault decided to go back as a team in F1.

“We are together in the Alliance, they opened the door for partnership and collaboration, and in a way we wanted to stop the sponsorship… so it was very natural and we are doing very well with them. We are very happy with this collaboration.

“But the point is this is track this is just F1… so the idea discussion I had with the F1 team with Renault since we are partnering and we are developing a hybrid for them – and we even have an engineer in the team so it’s not just a marketing thing – was ‘what can we do together?’ Because F1 moved to hybrid, and of course F1 is the pinnacle of technology.

“But the distance between F1 and a road car is big. So, what can we do to reconnect the track/road story? And we find the idea of how we can explore the ‘inspired by F1’ technology in a production car, and this is what we are now investigating with Renault and the Q60 Black S.

“I think it makes a good story, because F1 hybrid is about smart management of energy… and not about results. Which, by the way, we can apply to car and also apply to the entire planet.”

Finally, Mr Bancon refuted the notion that Infiniti has partnered with Renault specifically to bring some European cache to the brand.

“It is clear Infiniti belongs to the Nissan corporation, and that will never change,” he said. “But we say Infiniti is the premium brand of the Alliance and not just Nissan, so we have to set ourselves up this way.”

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