There is no doubting the speed of IndyCar, and its performance as a race car. However the engine that has served the sport for a decade is coming to the end of its life and a new engine is scheduled to be introduced in 2023. We take a look at the current performance and what this may bring to IndyCar in the years to come. Along the way we answer the question How much power does an Indy Car have?
The 2022 IndyCar twin turbocharged 2.2-liter V6 Engine can produce between 550 and 700 horsepower depending on track set up. However, in 2023 the new IndyCar engine will increase from 2.2 liters displacement up to 2.4 liters, still in a V6 twin turbo, which will increase the power output to circa 900 horsepower.
NASCAR, before the Next Gen car could hit 850 to 900 Horsepower, Formula 1 can achieve up to 1100 Horsepower, but what about IndyCar. Can they compete in the horsepower stakes with the other top Motor Racing Sports?
How Much Horsepower Does an IndyCar Engine Have?
Currently, IndyCar engines are twin-turbocharged 2.2-litre V-6 internal combustion engines that help to power the cars, which are open-wheel single-seater vehicles, unlike the stock cars used in the NASCAR Cup Series.
IndyCar currently has two engine manufacturers, who both produce engines that output between 550 and 700 horsepower, depending on the turbo boost pressure used at the track. The turbocharging is done using twin BorgWarner EFR 7163 turbochargers, whilst the maximum boost pressure is 1300 millibars on superspeedways, 1500 millibars on all other circuits and 1650 millibars when the Push-To-Pass system is activated.
The maximum revolutions per minute is 12,000 in normal conditions, or 12,200 when using Push-To-Pass. The turbochargers are also incorporated with the intercoolers. This RPM rate is limited using an IndyCar-supplied rev limiter.
IndyCar Vs. NASCAR Vs. F1 Engines.
The IndyCar horsepower is similar to that of a Formula One car, but the F1 car gets a further 160 horsepower due to the fact that the engine is hybrid and has an energy recovery system.
The NASCAR Cup Series engines prior to the next generation cars have 550 horsepower on long tracks, and 750 horsepower on shorter tracks that are less than one mile. This is changing to 510 and 670 with the next generation cars introduction. The fuel which powers the engine, to help to produce the horsepower, is Speedway E85 fuel.
It is a blend that is made up of ethanol and gasoline. 85% is ethanol, whilst the other 15% is gasoline, and this fuel is delivered using an injector that combines both direct and electronic indirect injection to produce roughly 300 bars of pressure.
The engine control unit, or ECU, is provided by McLaren Applied Technologies.
What Are the Changes to the IndyCar Engines in 2023?
IndyCar will start using its new fourth-generation engine in the 2023 season. The new engine has some key differences that improve the performance from the current engines, which have been used for a decade.
The current engines have 2.2 litres of engine displacement, but the 2023 engine will see this increase to 2.4 litres. However, the V-6 twin-turbo design will remain. This will see the horsepower increase to 900 horsepower, from a previous maximum of 700 horsepower.
The hybrid components will be introduced using a system that will make the engines road relevant with current hybrid road vehicles. The engines will become hybrid by using a multi-phase motor, inverter and electric storage device that will allow the car to recover energy from the braking system and store it.
The engine is then able to deploy the power, alongside the fuel, to increase the speed during crucial moments, such as overtaking manoeuvres. The move to hybrid technology will also mean that the drivers will now be able to restart their engines from within the cockpit.
What are the IndyCar Push to Pass Changes?
The Push-To-Pass system will also become more powerful due to the horsepower increase. It is also expected that the pace will increase, and the overall time of the race will decrease. The new engine will come at a time when Formula One introduces a cost cap, which could attract F1 engines suppliers to the series.
This is as F1 already uses hybrid engines, and the extra income from IndyCar could help an F1 team to hold onto employees instead of firing them due to the budget cuts.
Who Manufactures the IndyCar Engines?
IndyCar has two engine manufacturers: Chevrolet and Honda. Chevrolet returned to IndyCar in 2012, after being away from the series for seven years, including the famous Team Penske team. They currently produce the Chevrolet Indy which is developed in collaboration with Ilmor Engineering.
They currently supply engines to seven teams in the series, and they have taken over 91 wins since 2012. Their 2021 engines had several key elements, including direct injection and turbocharging which are also used in powerful and fuel-efficient Chevrolet production cars.
Their current engine has a maximum horsepower of 735, as well as an assembled mass of 248 pounds. Chevrolet won the IndyCar Manufacturer Championship for six consecutive years, from 2012 until 2017. Chevrolet previously produced the Chevrolet Indy V8 between 2002 and 2005.
Honda produced engines for all 33 cars in the Indy 500 between 2006 and 2011, and there was not a single engine-related retirement in any of these six races. They continued to produce engines in 2012 when engine competition returned, and Dario Franchitti won his 3rd Indy 500 in 2012 using their Honda Indy V6.
Honda have won the IndyCar Manufacturer Championship for four consecutive years, ending the period of Chevrolet dominance. HPD is Honda’s engine division, and they operate from Santa Clarita, California.
This facility allows their 150 associates to produce their engines, and it features an engine design facility, a material analysis laboratory and a quality-control inspection area.
Could IndyCar use Electric Cars?
IndyCar engines try to remain fairly relevant to road car engines. Several major automotive manufacturers have set the aim of going ‘all electric’ by 2030. However, Roger Penske stated that he did not believe that this was realistic for IndyCar.
He also stated that “I don’t think you’re going to see the world going all-electric.” He believes that IndyCar and the rest of the world will go forward using hybrid solutions, rather than pure electricity. He also stated than the demand for electric vehicles in the USA will be far less that the demand in Europe, where come cities are mandating electric vehicles.
The Formula E series has proven that all-electric single-seater racing is possible, but the cars are nowhere near the specifications of an IndyCar car. IndyCar cars have to be very powerful to race on the ovals at the high speeds that they do.
The current electric racing technologies would not be enough to create an IndyCar equivalent series, although this could be likely in the future, as electrification increases.
However, within the next decade it is unlikely that IndyCar will go fully electric. They see hybrid technology as the future, and it is a step in the right direction that is advancing the series, making it more relevant, and even more similar to Formula One.
Racing cars are made to have power and go fast, while that includes powerful engines there is more than raw power that enables them to cross finishing lines first. If it was just power then trucks would be winning.
Aerodynamics, braking, driver skills, suspension and power all turn a car into a race car. That said, we asked the question does IndyCar match up with other sports in terms of horsepower, and yes it most certainly does not only match, but with the new IndyCar engine on its way it surpasses them as well.