Formula E – electric racing on the streets of some of the world’s most iconic cities. Is this the future of motorsport?
Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship already race hybrid cars that use electricity for some of their power. But Formula E is a huge step, racing cars that are powered purely by electricity. Hosted by Louise Goodman there was a forum at Silverstone that looked at Formula E and its ideas and plans for the future of racing.
A Formula e car in Rome photo Formula e
Formula E is a zero emissions race series that will start in 2014, visiting major cities around the world, including London, Los Angeles and Rome. Run exclusively on the slower street circuits where the lack of top speed will not be as noticeable as on the track, Formula E is seen as a way fo bringing new fans to motor sport. It will also keep motorsport relevant, helping to find innovations that can be used on electric road cars of the future.
The panel discussing Formula E at Silverstone, including Lord Drayson, Pierre Fillion, Alejandro Agag and David Richards Photo:Formula E
CEO Alejandro Agag said that Formula E would help to create the city cars of the future. He likened it to the fact that nowadays it seems strange that not so long ago you would go to a restaurant and the people next to you could be smoking. In a similar way, in a few years it may seem odd that we ever allowed internal combustion engines into our cities.
Formula E will be an open technology formula, allowing teams to innovate as much as possible. It will promote interest and investment in electirc vehicles and sustainable motoring. Each team will have two drivers and – unusually – each driver will have two cars. They will swap cars half way through the race. This is a practical solution to the issue that electric cars cannot yet last long enough for a complete race. However Alejandro pointed out that fans will see the technology improving year by year, until the batteries can last longer. It will be interesting to watch this formula from the beginning and see how it develops.
Formula E will be tricky for drivers as it is being designed to take place all in one day. As major city centres will be used, and they cannot be closed down for a whole weekend, Formula E will have free practice, qualifying and the race all on the same day. As all of the circuits are new this will make an exciting challenge for the drivers.
One of the technologies being considered is dynamic induction charging, whereby the cars will be freed from the constraints of batteries by being charged from under the road as they drive around the circuit. This technology would eventually allow emissions to be completely removed from cities and is an example of the pioneering work in which Formula E hopes to engage.
Lord Drayson is one of the first team owners to sign up to the formula and he said that he saw it as an opportunity for motor sport to help change the image of electric cars by making them cool and exciting. Racing could go a long way towards changing the world’s beliefs, and will also grow the sport, attracting new sponsors and new fans.
Formula E will give huge impetus to electric car development and will change many perceptions of what motor sport is and what it can achieve. The Formula is still working on its final regulations and is open to new ideas and suggestions that will help make it exciting and relevant. As Nicolas Prost said, the project is ‘very ambitious,’ but it will result in an exciting urban racing series with a serious chance to help change the world.