The future of motor racing?
What is FE?
Formula E is a new FIA [Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile] motorsport championship for fully-electric single-seater cars. In fact it’s the world’s first fully-electric racing series beginning in Beijing in September 2014. For the first season, there’s 10 races all taking place on street circuits in the heart of cities around the globe. We have 10 teams – backed by top names including Michael Andretti, Alain Prost, Sir Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio – each with two drivers. Events will take place all in one day – to minimise disruption to the city – with fans able to watch practice, qualifying and a 60-minute race followed by a music concert in the evening. We want to create a new and exciting racing series that will appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans.
Why is it being started?
The idea for Formula E came from the FIA. I’d love to take credit for it but I can’t! It was the FIA, led by President Jean Todt, who decided to launch a fully electric championship and to do it now. Our role as series promoters has been to turn their vision into a reality.
In essence, the concept behind Formula E is to promote the electric car industry and to act as a framework for R&D around EV technology. One of the biggest ‘barriers’ preventing the uptake of electric cars are the current stigmas attached to them. People don’t see them as ‘cool’ or ‘exciting’ and they are worried about ‘battery life’ and, of course, ‘cost’. Formula E hopes to change this and act as a catalyst for change. Motorsport has long been regarded as the best way to push the boundaries of technology and we hope through competition we will accelerate the current limitations so that EVs become the majority rather than the minority, especially in urban areas.
How FE cars are made
The Spark-Renault SRT_01E to give it its full name, is a very sophisticated fully-electric open wheel racing car. It has been built and designed by French-based Spark Racing Technology together with a consortium of the leading names in motorsport including McLaren (powertrain & electronics), Dallara (chassis), Williams (battery design), Renault (system integration) and Michelin (tyres). It’s capable of reaching 0-62mph in three seconds and on to a top speed of 150mph. The batteries are lithium-ion – just like the ones you find in laptops – and produce 200kw – the equivalent of 270bhp. The cars will also feature a ‘power boost’ option temporarily increasing their speed for a limited time to help aid overtaking and add an extra dimension to the racing.
For the first season, all the cars are identical but from season two teams will be able to build their own cars. Four of the 10 teams are manufacturers and will already be working on incorporating their battery and powertrain technology from 2015. It is this new technology that we want to filter down into everyday electric road cars.
What the future holds for FE
We hope the future of Formula E is the future of motorsport. We want the series to act as a catalyst to promote electric cars but also to promote sustainability and make people think about the environment they live in, particularly in cities. Our aim is to appeal to the next generation of motorsport fans but also car buyers so that their first car is an electric one.