When the Formula E cars were first let loose at Donington Park back in June, we’ll be the first to admit that the cars took us by surprise. Not only did they look fantastic but they were impressively quick, flashing past us on the home straight as they reached top speeds of around 140mph. The sound was interesting too. Rather than the loud scream of a traditional racing engine, they produced a muted whoosh of disturbed air, alongside a whistling noise similar to that of a jet engine. It may not sound exciting, but it was quietly impressive.
It must be stressed that whist Formula E delivers in terms of sound, speed and aerodynamics; there is far more to the sport than this. It’s about battery technology and the push to make electric cars attractive and viable. It’s here that Formula E has a real chance of creating an impact. The limitations of battery powered cars are well documented; in particular, the time required to charge the battery is simply too long. With a lithium-ion battery, a fully charged Electric Vehicle (EV) can travel a distance comparable to an internal combustion engine with a full tank of gas; but the time it takes to recharge the battery is in the region of hours, not minutes. With long trips out of the equation, an EV may be suitable for inner-city travel, but uptake of these vehicles has remained slow. Can things really change?
Make no mistake; those behind Formula E are making all the right moves to give Formula E a chance to change public perception around electric cars. For a start, the ten E-Prix races in the first season will take place solely around street circuits in some of the most famous cities in the world. If the aim is to promote and excite the public about electric vehicles – particularly the younger generation of sports fans – then having those cars race in an energetic city environment will work wonders. On top of that you’ve got a diverse line up of teams and drivers taking part: including former Formula 1 drivers such as Bruno Senna and Karun Chandok. These world class drivers will be battling wheel to wheel in cars that produce an impressive amount of torque. We’re guaranteed to get some fantastic racing on some incredibly technically demanding circuits, so the spectacle alone should be enough to draw the fans in.
Perhaps the biggest plus that the sport has going for it however, is that it is more than just a spec series. Whilst the cars and battery technology will be identical across all teams in the sports inaugural season, Formula E hope to encourage manufacturers to come in and create better battery technology once the sport hits year two. Unlike Formula 1 – where teams chase aerodynamic improvements – teams and manufactures will aim to produce lighter, longer lasting batteries in an arms race to see who can come out on top. This will not only have an enormous impact on the future of electric cars, but could well shape the future of the motor industry as a whole.
Formula E does not aim to challenge Formula 1 as the premier racing series on the planet, neither does it aim to replace GP2 as a feeder series for future F1 champions. With sustainability at the forefront, the sport aims to drive forward technologies for real world EV application and at the same time change the public’s perception; making electric vehicles sexier. None of this however compromises the sports vision of creating an exciting race series; a series that engages with fans in ways the racing world hasn’t seen before. Whilst fans of traditional motorsport may still be sceptical, the silent revolution is coming.
We’ll be sure to be here with you every step of the way.
Written by: Anil Parmar