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Get Ready for the Electric Grand Prix: Formula E

Renault EV Formula E Car

10 racing teams, 20 drivers in 10 awesome city circuits across the world. Oh, and the cars are completely powered by electricity!

In 2014 it’s all eyes on the new type of open-wheeled, single-seater racing series: Formula E. With its inaugural race hosted in the heart of Beijing, racing fans can expect to see some F1-esque performance tear its way around some of the most iconic landmarks that China’s Capital has to offer.

There are, of course, some major differences to how the race is run though in comparison to your F1, F2, IndyCar type races. Let’s start with the car.

The Spark-Renault SRT_01E

This electric powered single-seater was first unveiled at the 65th Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2013. Its construction was a combined effort between the FIA and some of the leading motorsport names with various aspects of the car provided by McLaren, Williams, Renault, and Michelin.

Renault EV Formula E Car

Tech Spec

Capable of speeds up to 140mph the electric racer is catapulted from 0-62mph in 3 seconds by an electric motor supplied by McLaren. All of this is powered by a battery system developed by The Williams Group, which packs a meaty punch equivalent to 270bhp.

All of this combined with an aerodynamic, super lightweight chassis made of carbon fibre and aluminium will allow the car to perform incredibly well. As with all power though, the batteries can only provide a certain range but thankfully the racers are provided with two cars each and a quick charge system that will be used to recharge them.

Furthermore, the SRT_01E has been designed with tyres that are capable of handling in both wet and dry weather conditions.

All racing teams will be using the same car…

For this initial season, all racing teams will be using the same car, however, the championship is formatted as an open Championship so teams will be able to create their own electric racing cars in accordance with the FIA guidelines. The first races will therefore be a good measure of natural racing ability between the competing drivers.

Each team in Formula E will have two racing drivers, which is a likely side effect of the limited range that battery power can provide. Because they will have 2 cars each in a race, 4 in total, one would assume that the other three charge in the pit whilst the fourth competes.

No tyre changes during pit stops…

Formula E’s website states that the racing teams must make two mandatory pit stops to change the cars, however, tyre changes will not be allowed unless if a puncture has been inflicted. This decision has been made to reduce the costs of expensive tyre changing pit stop equipment and because the tyres Michelin have developed are designed to last the duration of an entire race.

The Format of the Formula E Races

So far we’ve identified that cars need to make 2 mandatory pit stops, there are 2 drivers per team with a total of 4 cars (2 each) and they take place in the hearts of some of the greatest cities in the world. So what about the qualifiers?

Well, in order to minimise the amount of disruption that city race circuits can create for host countries, the practice round, qualifiers, and the actual race all happen in the same day – very different from the days that Formula 1 races span over.

Another neat feature that The Verge reported on is the assistance that supporters of the sport can provide racers with. Like F1’s DRS system, Formula E cars will be given a pre-determined number of boosts to aid with their overtaking but fans who vote online during a race will be able to directly speed up cars too (The Verge).

First Thoughts Before Race Day

Formula E has the objective of aiding the development of electric vehicles (EVs) by encouraging teams that participate to develop the technology through an open Championship and showing spectators that electric vehicles are cool, which should in turn help grow the volume of EV car sales over 25 years (Formula E’s vision).

From an F1 supporters perspective, however, the elements that make an open-wheel, single-seat race exciting are the full pit stops, the strategy involved with tyres, and most importantly the roar of the combustion engines that will be completely missing from this EV version.

The organisers did, however, say that their innovative race would breed a new type of racing enthusiast so it may just be a case of suck it and see.

Below is are two videos: one shows how the Spark-Renault SRT_01E sounds when performing a donut and the other shows Red Bull’s F1 car doing the same. Watch them both and tell us in the comments what your thoughts are on the new Formula E.

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Randal Whitmore is an enthusiastic motoring writer at Service 4 Service and a great fan of Formula 1 motorsport with McLaren-Mercedes being his favourite team. He hopes to own a BMW 3 Series one day although his old faithful '93 Micra is still rolling on.

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