Formula E is electrifying motor racing

The cars may look familiar and the action is fast, furious and close. The commentators hyperventilate with excitement and even the drivers’ names are steeped in motor racing royalty. There’s a Prost and a Senna and a Piquet on the grid alongside former Formula 1 drivers Jarno Trulli, Sebastien Buemi and Nick Heidfeld.

But when the rubber hits the road at any race of the Formula E series there’s something distinctly different about it. It’s the sound – there’s not much of it. Instead of Formula 1’s deafening V6 howl, the high-pitched whine of Formula E sounds a little like slot cars on steroids.

Welcome to the world of Formula E, the world’s first all-electric single seater racing class backed by the FIA.

The FIA Formula E Championship’s third season sparks into life in Hong Kong this October in a series that takes cars and their teams around the world to venues including Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Monaco and New York.

The cars are powered by electric motors putting out 200kw that can push the cars from 0-100kmh in 3 seconds with a top speed of 225kmh. That’s pretty fast, but nowhere near as fast as Formula 1 cars. With up to 630kw of power from their turbocharged hybrid power units, Formula 1 cars can hit 100kmh in an astonishing 1.6 seconds and well over 300kmh down some straights.

Close and competitive racing

It may lack the outright speed and eardrum-piercing volume of Formula 1, but Formula E makes up for it in the sort of close and competitive racing seldom seen in today’s Mercedes-dominated Formula 1 competition. It’s raced over small circuits of approximately 2.5k in city streets with tight corners and short straights. The 2015-16 season was won by just two points over 10 rounds, with former Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Sebastien Buemi picking up the points in the final race.

One curious feature of Formula E is that drivers swap cars mid race as the battery runs low. The long term aim is to eliminate the need for this as battery technology improves, so drivers can complete the race on a single charge.

Technology transfer

It will be interesting to see how Formula E develops with the rapidly emerging technology of electric cars and whether Formula E technology eventually finds its way into electric cars for the road. That’s certainly been the case with Formula 1, which developed the twin overhead cam motor, direct shift gearboxes, traction control and anti-lock brakes, to name a few.

One legendary motoring name that’s recently joined the circuit is Jaguar. It’s teamed up with Panasonic for the upcoming third season. In fact Jaguar Land Rover intends to use Formula E as a “stepping stone” to making electric vehicles.

“The Formula E championship will enable us to engineer and test our advanced technologies under extreme performance conditions,” said Nick Rogers, the company’s executive director of product engineering.

If Formula E follows the rapid development path set by Tesla it could be in for a very fast ride indeed, with technological innovation pushing it ahead at a furious pace, so watch this space.

Speaking of watching, Formula E is yet to get widespread free-to-air TV coverage, but keen “electric-heads” with Foxtel can watch it live on the Fox Sports channels, complete with hyperventilating commentators. You can also get a taste of it on You Tube.

FIA Formula E Championship

Formula E vs Formula 1

Formula 1
Formula E
Turbocharged V6 hybrid
630kw (845bhp)
200kw (270bhp)
702kg with driver
888kg with driver
Acceleration 0-100kmh
1.6 seconds
3 seconds
Top Speed
Fuel consumption
Sound volume

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Categories: Electric
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