A large amount of energy is lost each time a car is brought to a stop by applying the brakes. The kinetic energy is converted into heat energy, which is useless in getting the car going again. For this reason, some engineers have experimented with the idea of storing energy in a flywheel when a car comes to a stop.
A flywheel is a massive ring which is free to spin about its center, like a bicycle wheel. The kinetic energy of a flywheel is given by
EK = Iω2/2
where I is the moment of inertia and ω is the angular frequency in radians per unit time. Thus the frequency f (in cycles per unit time) is f = ω/2π. The moment of inertia is given by
I = MR2
where M is the mass of the flywheel and R is the radius.
Ideally the kinetic energy of the car would be transferred to the flywheel as the car comes to a stop. When the driver wants to go again, the energy would be transferred back to forward kinetic motion. Unfortunately, the efficiency of the two transfers will be less than 100%, so energy will be lost to heat. This energy can, of course, be made up by conventional means, such as burning gasoline.
For the following questions, use the notation:
Mcar is mass of the car
M is mass of the flywheel
R is radius of the flywheel
ω = 2πf = angular frequency of the flywheel
A conventional car (500 kg) rolls down a hill, such that the efficiency of conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy is 40%. If the car starts from rest at a point 600 meters above sea level and coasts to a point 550 meters above sea level, what is the resulting speed of the car? (Use g = 10 m/s2.)