Tech it out
Technology has always driven the car industry, and will do so again.

Tech it out

24th Oct 2020 9:00 am

Shapur Kotwal talks about the new tech being used in the automobile industry.


The internal combustion engine is dying. The automobile is on its way out. Electric cars put out zero emissions. In the future, you will only shower once a week. The Chinese had nothing to do with the coronavirus. We will all have to turn vegan due to bovine methane emissions. . . . . these and other assorted bits of bull; is there no end to them? Yes, there is some amount of truth in every one of these statements, and the internal combustion engine and then the car, could go the way of the Dodo, eventually; but not just yet. The truth of the matter is that the automobile industry, far from being down and out, is ramping up on tech like never before. And this is coming from a variety of sources, Formula 1 among them. Who knew.

Take Rolls-Royce’s new damper tech. Known as ‘Planar’, the system uses an all-new horseshoe shaped damper that sits on top of the strut and works in conjunction with the regular damper. Known as Planer due to the term ‘flat-plane’, it helps further reduce and isolate the resonance or the natural tendency of the spring to bounce. This relatively simple tech, once further refined, could even improve ride on not-so-expensive cars and even sporty cars meant to drive on less-than-perfect roads. You will hear of this in the future.   

Another bit of previously seen tech, that actually comes from Formula 1, is fan-based downforce, used to make a car stick to the road. Earlier, it used to suck the car onto the road on the 1978 Brabham BT 46B, the new system has been designed by none other than the inventor; ex-Formula 1 engineer and Cartier concours judge, Gordon Murray. The Porsche Boxster-sized T50, a supercar he has created, has a fan that can be controlled from the cockpit of the car. It has six modes. Auto and braking kick in automatically, but there’s also ‘high downforce’, Vmax, Streamline or high speed and Test. Functionality isn’t the same as on 1978 Formula 1 car, however; whereas the Brabham fan car was basically a ‘vacuum cleaner’, this sophisticated system increases airflow through the central diffuser, placed just ahead of the rear bulkhead, and effectively channels the air out the back, thus increasing airflow under the car.

Then there’s the new Maserati MC20, with its pre-chamber equipped Nettuno engine that puts out a higher specific output than most street-spec engines of its size. Also derived from Formula 1 tech, the 90-degree 3.0-litre V6 engine puts out 630hp. The pre-chamber, which comes with its own plug, pre-ignites a small amount of mixture and pushes it out into the main combustion chamber (via a multi hole nozzle) to ignite the main charge. The engine uses both, twin injectors and twin spark plugs, and showcases advancements in both fuel economy and performance.

Then there’s the emergence of all-electric four-wheel drive, as on the Ferrari F90 Stradale, and Formula 1 derived electric turbos are going mainstream. So new tech is sprouting up all over. The internal combustion engine and the car aren’t dead yet.


Shapur Kotwal

  • 398 Articles

Deputy editor at Autocar India.

Shapur is at the forefront of the magazine's extensive road testing activities and oversees the test instrumentation and data acquisition. Shapur has possibly the most experience among all road testers in the country.

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