TOKYO -- For average car buyers, the most important aspect of Honda Motor Co.'s return to Formula One racing, as an engine supplier to McLaren Automotive, could be its plans for downsized turbocharging. Honda is expected to roll out downsized turbocharging as its next step toward more fuel-efficient cars. Developing them for racing could boost its mass-market plans.
Beginning next year, Formula One rules will require downsized 1.6-liter, six-cylinder direct injection turbocharged engines, replacing 2.4-liter V-8s. Formula One also will allow beefed-up energy recuperation systems, such as the brake regeneration technology used in hybrid vehicles.
Honda figures it has a leg up in some aspects of the new rules, such as direct injection, small-displacement engines and energy recuperation. President Takanobu Ito says it can use other technologies from the track in its street cars.
"Considering feedback from racing into mass production, we are looking at the downsized turbocharged engine," Ito said. "That will, I'm sure, have influences on mass-production vehicles. I have very high expectations."
Honda engineers have said adding turbochargers is expected to be the next step in improving the fuel economy of Honda's new line of direct fuel-injected Earth Dreams engines. They considered using a downsized turbo on the latest Accord but did not because they believed the turbocharger's delayed kick-in wasn't conducive to the smooth ride desired from a family sedan.
But Honda is working to improve the technology. Shoji Matsui, large project leader of the Accord's latest redesign, told Automotive News last fall the next generation likely would get a downsized turbo for better fuel efficiency.