All About Formula-E: Why Should We Care?

It’s a fair question.  Isn’t Formula-E another chapter yet to be written about rich, privileged Peter Pans racing around in vehicles less likely to explode on impact?  What will Formula-E have to do with the live of the average salaryman?

A lot, Mr. Salaryman.  Because if you haven’t noticed, track technology has an overwhelming record at turning up in passenger car technology.  Formula-E will help drive innovation for electric, gas and diesel hybrid vehicles as well.   Lighter batteries, extended range, better power delivery efficiency, charging breakthroughs and more.

But I’m not the only one thinking about the value of a major motor sport devoted to electric cars.  There’s a good article by Richard Lane at Econmento.com titled “Why It’s Time to Get Excited About Formula-E.”

In it he makes some great points about the future promise and value of the neophyte series:

The cars, then, will be fast and challenging to race, in addition to being clean at point-of-use. Despite all this, Formula E technology is only at the bottom of a very steep development curve. This is particularly true when you consider the heavyweights that are involved: Williams Advanced Engineering, Renault Sport Technologies, and McLaren Electronic Systems are just a notable handful.

 

Yes, we are at the bottom of the development curve for electric vehicle motors.  According to the article, each Formula-E car carries a propulsion system with the power of a Nissan Leaf.  Now they’re going to unleash their best engineers on creating an improvement process that will deploy solutions on a regular basis.  It’s either that or lose–which is something that these privileged Peter Pans simply don’t like to do.

If they follow a similar technology development curve as NASCAR or Formula-1, then look forward to astonishing breakthroughs in the years to come.

What’s low-hanging fruit here?  Redistributing weight and more efficient propulsion, ala Porsche’s new 918 Spyder hybrid.  From Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport BT driver:

“You put one motor in each wheel and have the battery in the center of the car,” di Grassi suggests, the result of which would be around 1200hp for a trivial 75kg increase in weight.

 

The significance of 1200 bhp in a Formula-E car?  Formula-1 cars currently generate around 760 bhp.

Another area of promise?  Power delivery efficiency.  See the Formula-E car doing donuts in the video above?  That was at 20% power.  Formula-E tires have tread and grip, not slicks.

That means the driver threw it into a turn with his foot 20% into the pedal.  Try that in your own car and see what happens.

To do donuts at such a low power output gives you an idea of the potential and thrill (read: danger) of going all-out in these racers.  The more power engineers can direct to the racing surface, the better these cars will be able to maneuver at higher speeds.

It’s a good article, one I suggest you read.

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Sebastian James

sebastian@sebastianwjames.me

Accept no substitutes

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