Formula E Racing and Electric Cars
When you attend a Formula E street race, the atmosphere really is electric. Only 5 years old and gaining followers worldwide. The cars, powered by batteries, are pushing electric car technology to the limits. The cars can go 0 – 100km/h in 2.8 secs and have a maximum speed of 280 km/h.
Formula E takes place at various locations around the world on street circuits: Americas, Europe, and Asia. Although Formula E still has a way to catch up with Formula 1 in terms of speeds and fan following, it is gaining every season. The next season is due to start on November 2019.
The format of races in Formula E is slightly different from those in Formula 1. Firstly, there is the ’Shakedown’ – which is when the teams can take their cars around the circuit to check their cars and systems. Every race has 2 ‘practice sessions’ where the teams and their drivers will be timed around the track circuit and will be able to make any last-minute adjustments to their cars.
Then there is ‘Qualifying’ which determines the start positions of the drivers for the race.
Each driver has 6 minutes to set their best lap time. And the 6 fastest drivers will go on to a ‘Super Pole shoot-out’ which decides which driver starts in pole position. The actual E-Prix race lasts for 45-minutes plus 1 lap.
To add some more excitement to the race, there is ‘Attack Mode’ - this lets drivers get extra battery power by driving off the racing line (so some team strategy will be involved), and through the ‘Activation Zone’ on the track. If the driver does this, they will get 25 kW extra of battery power which can be used for the next few laps only.
Another very novel idea for fan participation is ‘Fan-boost’ which gives an opportunity for the fans to get involved using social media. Fans can vote for their favorite drivers and the top 5 drivers in the Fan-boost will receive extra battery power which they can use during the race.
There are also restrictions on when the cars can be charged and the number of tyres changes. When cars brake, that also gives a slight recharge to the battery. So how cars are driven also affects a team’s performance.
Formula E is helping to bring awareness about electric car technology to the mainstream. With each new season, Formula E showcases the latest racing car technology. The teams, which have some big car manufacturers amongst them, are testing new technology every year which is then used in their latest models for the public.
Outside of Formula E, more needs to be done to get electric vehicles going mainstream.
There are some steps being taken. Recently, in the US, one gas station has ditched gas to become the first totally electric car charging station. Another, a major Indian oil company that runs petrol stations, is looking at the possibility of using its stations as ‘battery swap’ locations where electric vehicle owners can exchange their batteries for fully-charged ones, as a quick way of getting cars on the road faster. These are perhaps small steps in a long journey for electric vehicle infrastructure.
A journey symbolized by Tesla. Tesla is perhaps the most famous electric car company that has caused other automakers to follow suit and to try and compete. Tesla stands out for its innovation and the way it is changing mindsets about electric car ownership. Most carmakers are slowly introducing electric versions including brands such as Porsche. Even Harley-Davidson has released a new electric ‘Live-wire’ bike.
Uptake of electric cars still remains slow though, as drivers slowly learn about the technology and get answers to questions about electric cars such as charging times, how long the battery will last and where can they recharge the battery (charging infrastructure).
But perhaps the biggest reason people are at least getting interested in finding out about electric vehicles is climate change and air pollution which is making drivers and cities at least look at electric options. Public transport providers around the world are going hybrid or all-electric for their buses as a way to reduce costs and emissions.
Electric vehicles will probably have to go through the same stages as when petrol cars were first manufactured and the infrastructure slowly came into existence to support mass ownership.
The growth of Formula E racing and its innovative use of technology is exciting fans and creating new followers each season. It is a showcase of what the latest technology can achieve. At the races, you’ll find the atmosphere is … electric!