The Project Black S is the result of an "evolving collaboration" between Infiniti and the Renault Sport Formula One Team. So much so that the Q60 Red Sport 400-based prototype uses parts mostly made by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance's Formula 1 suppliers.
It's unique dual-hybrid powertrain consists of a twin-turbo VR30 V6, boosted by a pair of heat energy harvesting systems (MGU-Hs), and a kinetic harvesting device (MGU-K). That means that the hybrid can produce energy both under acceleration and braking. 563 dyno-confirmed horses, to be exact.
Infiniti took advantage of Renault Sport's rapid prototyping and digital simulation capabilities, using teams often made up of only two or three people in order to get a development car ready in just 18 months. And while the decision to go for it was made at Infiniti's Hong Kong headquarters, the design landed at the Renault Sport Formula One Team in the UK, who worked alongside Renault Sport Racing in France. The French branch was responsible for the Q60-sized dual-hybrid system, while Infiniti's London design department came up with the composite aerodynamic package. Hashtag: teamwork.
Along with a whole fleet of carmakers, Infiniti decided not to have a stand at this year's Paris Motor Show. But they did have the Project Black S there, along with François Bancon, Infiniti's Vice President for Motorsport and Connected Vehicles. We had to ask him when can we drive this thing:
Is this purely a concept, or more of a prototype of a future production vehicle?
The idea was not to make another show car. This is a technology study. A real, serious technology study made using F1-inspired technology. We didn’t want to confuse people. It’s not about design, or anything like that. It’s a scientific development study based on an existing car. We wanted to use a production car to apply these technologies. And so, we are at this stage when the architecture, the packaging, the component selection, and all the software (for the energy management) is done. Now, we'll enter a phase where we need to test the car to see if it works, because so far, everything has been managed digitally. Of course we put the engine on a dyno, but that's about it. Probably, in November or December, we will do the first validation. And that’s another reason why we didn’t want a concept car. Because we wanted it to end up on a track. The objective being to invite the media sometime next year to drive the car, and tell me what it does.
Can it go into production? I don’t know yet. It’s a very high-tech car using Formula 1 suppliers as well as our normal ones. And the cost for the road? Honestly, we are not there yet. We have an idea of course, but it’s too early. The challenge will be to make it cost effective. But you can’t achieve the same level of performance using a common hybrid system.
For example, when we decide to go electric turbo – which doesn’t exist today outside of Formula 1 – it’s going to be more complicated for us, because we’ll need two electric turbos. This, not in terms of performance number, but in terms of sensation will be a very different story. With an E-turbo, there’s basically no lag. We wanted to learn how to maximize the energy chain in a car. Of course this technology will need a higher voltage subsystem, at 48 or 60 volts.
Is this the first sign of many electrified performance Infinities to come?
I’m not gonna say that this is the solution. This can only be applied to an expensive sports car. The price of F1 hybrid technology remains high. But from 2021, every new product in the development cycle will be electrified. Then comes 2022-2025, and some will go full electric. But there are some products I don’t see going full electric yet. Like full-sized SUVs.
We have a new engine with Variable Compression Timing in the QX50, and this powertrain will not stop tomorrow morning. But the Project Black S’ dual-hybrid system is compatible with any powertrain. Ideally, we should have done this with a 2.0 VCT, because it’s the latest Infiniti engine available. But that’s a front-wheel drive package, and the Q60 is on a rear-wheel drive platform. We wanted to limit the changes, because it’s already a big challenge. It’s got a stock transmission.
And once you made the technology work, is Infiniti going to compete against the German performance cars?
Yeah! I mean, I’m not sure yet when we gonna do it, but we’d love to, obviously. We spent a lot of time, energy and money. I’m just unable to confirm production at this point, because we have to validate everything, and come up with a business plan. Which will not be easy. If it gets the green, we’ll be very happy to do just that.
A tough business case, for sure. But no F1-technology will make a Q60 as expensive as that other F1-based car, the AMG One. That's something monsieur Bancon can promise the heads in Hong Kong.