To race fans, we may be seeing the earliest stage of a new trend in auto racing – hybrid technology. But in this case it’s not to improve fuel economy but enhance the cars performance in a way that’s more environmentally friendly.

Just announced yesterday, BMW Motorsports is developing a hybrid drive to be used on its Formula 1 car. BMW hopes to develop the technology for auto racing with the use of regenerative braking, capacitors and lithium ion batteries. The power generated while braking during a race can be stored either in the capacitors or batteries. This stored energy is then released when needed to electric motors working in conjunction with a traditional power plant. An ingenious way to boost your cars power simply and with minimal impact.

I recently posted at Ridestory about the hybrid-powered Gumpert Apollo that entered last weekend’s 24 hour race at the Nürburgring in Germany. The car finished the race, an incredible feat considering they were a small, independent team competing against the big manufacturers.

Similarly, Formula 1 has issued new rules that allows manufacturers and their teams to increase a cars performance but only through fuel saving technologies such as a hybrid drive.

The exciting aspect of this challenge is the presumed trickle down effect. How often has a technology been developed and improved on the race track, with it showing up a few years later in the common road car? Yes, hybrid drives were developed for everyday cars, with fuel economy in mind. But now the technology has made it to the race track. Here’s hoping rapid development soon follows. Just imagine high performance cars without the guilt or the environmentalists giving you a hard time!

BMW’s hybrid Formula 1 car should begin testing this summer and ready for the 2009 season.

Written by Andrew, Guest Contributor,