28 Aug 2012

Formula E - New Formula for electric race cars

A new 'Formula E' race series has been sanctioned by the FIA and launched by a group of businessmen including Paul Drayson who runs Drayson racing Technologies.

The series will cost about €50million to launch and will involve 10 teams each running two cars

The promoters aim for ten different street races in city centre locations such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Miami and Los Angeles - although we note London, nor anywhere in the UK, is included in the list.

The series aims to launch in 2014 with 10 teams, expanding to 14 in 2015.  The races themselves are scheduled to be one hour long but, with the batteries only forecast to last 15-20 minutes, pitstops will actually involve drivers hopping out of one car and into another with a freshly charged battery.

Jean Todt, FIA president, said in statement, "This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience.  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 million euros and race winning drivers will share a €4 million euro prize fund.

Owner of the Addax team, Alejandro Agag, said, "We see this as a great opportunity to create a new and exciting spectacle mixing racing, clean energy and sustainability, looking to the future.  We expect this Championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities."

So that's the PR fluff out of the way.

The cars themselves will vary in terms of looks.  This article carries pictures of three concepts.  The Bluebird car looks fantastic whilst the Fondtech car looks very odd.  The designed issued by the Formula E organisers with their press release looks like a Formula 3 car.

Whatever the looks we already have an idea of the noise they will make.  They won't be silent - more like a woosh.  Definitely quiet enough for the city locations proposed.

But will it actually happen?  Many race series have been proposed before and then slowly bitten the dust with unpaid manufacturers, angry promoters and bemused fans.

Formula E concept
The finances proposed to run all of Formula E for the first year would keep a Formula 1 team going for about six months.  And these are wildly ambitious concepts.  But then again small, independent teams manage to run cars at Le Mans to a budget.

What is obvious is that there is a huge amount of goodwill attached to Formula E.  The organisers talk about the series acting as an accelerated R&D programme for the teams involved.  Maybe the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota et al will be interested.

As long as the races can be properly organised, enough teams can be attracted and the rules written clearly enough that teams are not accused of cheating then it looks as if Formula E may well have a future.

We wish the organisers well.  But surely there must be room for a UK race on the calendar.