A Formula E car driving on a racing track

Electric Motor Racing Comes to City Streets

4 minutes read

Formula E World Championship to Launch in 2014

Motor racing and ecology rarely go together. Saving the planet and burning huge amounts of fossil fuels to hurtle in circles very fast seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. However the lure of the new has made the FIA, the Formula One governing body, develop a new championship for electric racing cars, premièring in 2014. Various manufacturers and teams have leaped onto this initiative and several cities – it’s a competition to be held like the Monaco Grand Prix on urban streets, not racing tracks – have already signed up to be venues.

A Renault Formula E car
A Renault Formula E car

Races are currently scheduled in at least 10 cities around the world, with Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Los Angeles, London, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Bangkok and Putrajaya in Malaysia named so far. Formula E will involve 10 teams and 20 drivers, including such famous names as McLaren and Williams. Formula E could be the perfect test-bed for many of the electrical innovations of interest to the automobile industry. Entrants will be able to use their own cars or one based on a Formulec EF01 prototype which has already achieved a top speed of 240 kph or 149 mph.

“The beauty of motor-sport and Formula One in general is that we can try out things very quickly and we apply huge amounts of engineering intellect to a problem which tends to move it on more quickly than it would do in automotive or defence or aerospace,” said Mercedes Grand Prix chief executive Nick Fry.

The engine of a Formula E electric car
The engine of a Formula E electric car

Motorcycle racing has already tried out electric bikes, notably in Isle of Man TT, and battery technology is no longer quite the limiting factor that it was in the past. Races will be an hour in duration but because the batteries will last only 15-20 minutes, there will be two pit-stops scheduled with drivers having to change cars.

“This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience,” FIA president Jean Todt said. “The new events will provide a great way to engage the younger generation. This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share FIA values with a wide audience as clean energy, mobility and sustainability.”

The season-winning team will get 2.0 million Euros and race winning drivers will share a 4.0 million Euro prize fund.

Formula E Chief Executive, Alejandro Agag expected the championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car.”We don’t expect the big car-makers to step into Formula E in the beginning. The industry is not too familiar with electric racing. But I am sure they will come in in a second stage,” he told Reuters.

A Formula E car races along the streets of Rome
A Formula E car races along the streets of Rome

Formula E looks to be an exciting new development, and with the races being held in cities, the sport will be more accessible to the public. One interesting debate is that electric cars are virtually silent, and the makers are wondering whether to add “sound effects”. It may seem to more Bright Green technology-oriented people that the lack of noise pollution is one of the beauties of EVs and that they should race with only the sound of the wind and the cheers of the crowds.

Here is a slightly ludicrous official video trailer about Formula E:



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