The fully-electric race car completed its successful test debut earlier this year and will now be showcased to invited guests, media and the public during a special event at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino – driven by former F1 driver Lucas di Grassi.
Formula E, as the name suggests, is the Formula 1 equivalent for electric vehicle racing. This could be a tide-turner for those who remain ambivalent about electric vehicles, those who don’t see an application for them in their own lives. This is an electric vehicle ‘event’ that they can get interested in.
A quick primer on the series.
Teams will be encouraged to pursue their own design within parameters set by the FIA, but the first series will see a common vehicle used. The vehicle has been developed by Spark Racing Technology, out of France, using the expertise of several well known companies as contributors. These include McLaren Electronics Systems, Williams, Michelin and Renault.
The cars have a minimum weight (with driver) of 800kg and a maximum battery weight of 200kg. The engines will make a maximum of 276hp, though full power is only available at certain times through race using a ‘push to pass’ function where permitted. Regular race power is 180hp, so the ‘push to pass’ function is a real boost when available.
Here’s the car in an early media event. Warning: you won’t find this overly inspiring, but bear in mind that this test vehicle was limited to just one quarter of the power that the race cars will have. This was just a media event to prove the concept, get some buzz and shoot some photos.
Teams will have two drivers each and there will be two cars per driver.
Races include pitstops where the driver changes into the second car.
The Formula E season will start in September 2014 and continue through to mid-2015. There are 10 races scheduled in this 9-month period. As with Formula 1, there will be a drivers championship and a constructors championship.
The series will see races in the following cities:
- Beijing, China
- Putrajaya, Malaysia
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Punta Del Este, Uruguay
- Buenos Aries, Argentina
- Los Angeles, USA
- Miami, USA
- Monte Carlo, Monaco
- Berlin, Germany
- London, England
Ten teams have been tentatively approved by the FIA for participation in the Formula E series. Final confirmation is yet to come but these teams have been publicised on the Formula E website, so it’d be surprising if they’re not there in September.
Drayson Racing (GB) – Formed by a former UK Science Minister, Lord Drayson. I hope they use similar T-shirts as the ones used by Lord Hesketh’s team back in the 70’s. They’ve already built one electric racer using a Lola chassis and claim a record for the fastest speed set by a lightweight electric vehicle.
China Racing (China, duh) – This team has grown out of the former Chinese A1GP team. Not much else known.
Andretti Autosport (USA) – The Andretti name should be familiar to all racing fans, even if you’re not familiar with the details of the family’s success. This team is headed by Michael Andretti and they have teams in multiple racing series in the USA right now.
Dragon Racing (USA) – Another Formula E team from the USA featuring another famous surname – Penske. It’s not the more familiar Roger Penske, however, but his youngest son, Jay. Jay made his money in publishing and we’ll see if he squanders it in Formula E. You know how to make a small fortune in motor racing, right? Start with a big one.
e.dams (Fra) – How surprising, a French team named after cheese 🙂 . e.dams was co-founded by Jean-Paul Droit and a guy named Alain Prost, who I’m sure knows absolutely nothing about racing but plenty about cheese. OK, more seriously, Droit has led his Dams team to wins in multiple different race formulae and Prost won 4 F1 World Championships and 51 Grands Prix. They know their stuff.
Super Aguri (JPN) – Super Aguri was involved in Formula 1 in the mid-2000’s. The team is headed by former racer, Aguri Suzuki. I guess Super Aguri sounds more credible than Super Suzuki although the alliteration must have been tempting.
Audi Sport ABT (Ger) – Given that Audi seems to eventually dominate most forms of motorsport it enters, this might be the team to watch. The ABT Sportsline team on which this Audi team is based has won five DTM titles in Germany. Vorsprung Durch Elektrisch Technik?
Mahindra Racing – The only team based in India and built on the industrial resources of Mahindra’s global operations, including vehicles and other machinery. These are the guys I’d like to get a pit pass for – the food in the hospitality area would be amazing.
Virgin Racing (GBR) – It was inevitable that either Virgin or Red Bull would be involved in this series, wasn’t it? The statements from Team Principal Alex Tai confirm that Formula E is a perfect brand fit for Virgin and the series will provide a wonderful atmosphere – no mention of technical capability. I’m sure they’ll hook up with the right people, however, as they usually do.
Venturi (Monaco) – The food might be good at Mahindra but the razzle-dazzle will be in the Team Venturi tent. Take an aspiring French electric car company, add in a bit of Hollywood celebrity in the form of team co-founder Leonardo Di Caprio and then base the whole thing in Monaco. Venturi claim the over-all electric vehicle land speed record (495km/h) and will be shooting for 700km/h in the near future. The powertrain for that record-holding vehicle is to be a base for their own Formula E vehicle when manufacturers build their own from 2015 onwards.
All jest aside, if Formula E can provide the advances in EV technology that Formula 1 has provided for ICE cars over the years, it’s going to be a very valuable series. If EV’s are going to become mainstream, they’ll need better battery technology in order to provide greater range. Racing can be a great proving ground for such technology.
Of course, the viability of the series will depend upon whether or not people get interested in it. Bums on seats and eyes on TV’s – that’s what matters.
I really hope they succeed. It’ll be fascinating to watch this develop.