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Cars, Culture

October 12th, 2017

Back in 2012 the FIA sanctioned the world’s first All-Electric racing car championship. Under the watchful eyes of Alejandro Agag, who himself is an avid investor in motorsport, the series got off to bang in September 2014 when Nick Heidfeld flipped his car on the final corner, of the last lap after colliding with Nicolas Prost while battling for the lead. It’s been over 3 years since the first Formula E race took place and during that time the series has created a niche for itself in the motoring world.

I was fortunate enough to witness the final round of Season 1, which took place at Battersea Park in London, and truth be told, the experience was a bit underwhelming. The cars lack the audible presence of their fossil-fueled counterparts and this, in turn, gives you the perception of the cars being slower than they actually are. The other shocking and frankly ridiculous bit about the series is the fact that the drivers need to swap cars at some point during the race. The reason for this is the fact that the battery on offer is insufficient to power the cars through an entire race, this issue though will be rectified by the 2019-2020 season when McLaren Applied Technologies provide teams with a new 54 kWh battery. In present time though, you still can’t help but wonder what you’re watching, when a driver pulls into the pit and jumps into a second car. Moving away from the criticisms a few things I was impressed with was the manner in which the cars accelerate (they do 0-60 in about 3 seconds) and the ease at with I was able to get to the venue given that the race was being run in downtown London. The latter is probably Formula E’s biggest selling point as running a motor race in the heart of a major city is something that will appeal to both fans and sponsors as the series gets bigger.

Now I’ll be honest, if you were to ask if I am a fan of electric cars, then the answer would be yes. If you asked me the same question about electric racecars? Well, the answer to that would be a resounding no! The reason for that is, I believe racecars need to intimidate you and for some reason the Formula E cars don’t quite do that, again the lack of noise might play a huge factor, but given the fact that the cars only have two or three gears depending on the team’s configuration, and the fact that you relate electric cars to mileage and saving the environment rather than performance, you tend to be left under the impression that these beasts can be tamed easily, though, in reality, this is far from the truth. After viewing the series first hand at what at what was dubbed as an exciting end to the inaugural championship, I frankly lost interest in the concept and focused more keenly on how Formula One and WEC could be more relevant in terms of contributing to the “green revolution” that is inevitably going to occur. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the space of less than a week this year, both Porsche and Mercedes rocked the motorsport world by confirming entries for the 6th edition of the Formula E championship, while simultaneously pulling out of LMP1 in WEC and DTM respectively. This coupled with the fact that Audi similarly scrapped its LMP1 efforts signifies a change in guard. Whether you’re a fan of Formula 1, endurance racing, rallying or a general fan of motorsport you will know that the more manufacturers you have in a championship the more lucrative it becomes. Though this will also lead to the inevitable rise in costs when the aforementioned manufacturers try to outdo one another, this can only be good for the Formula E concept, as it will, in turn, boost the overall development of the car at a quicker rate.

Think of it this way, the start of the 6th season could potentially see Renault, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, Mahindra, Citroen along with startups like NIO and Faraday Future all line up on the same grid. To put things into context the two most widely popular forms of motorsport, Formula 1 and NASCAR feature just four and three of these manufacturers respectively.

We can no longer ignore the fact that electric cars seem to be the way forward. Given that France and the U.K. are both aiming to ban fossil-fueled cars by 2040 and with China set to follow suit, car makers view Formula E as a research bed for their future vehicles, while at the same time using the platform to market themselves as a proprietor of electric technology. Given the state of affairs there is no doubt the concept of electric car racing is the on the rise, in fact with Jaguar launching the I-Pace E trophy as a support race to the main series, the only thing left for the promoters to do is entice a certain Italian brand that likes running red cars to come onboard the E-Prix Revolution.

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