Those of you who’ve been following the developments in the world of alternative motor racing will probably be familiar with the annual solar car races staged by Australian students, the EcoF3 formula series concept that proposed to introduce eco-racing series involving cars made of recycled materials and powered by 2-litre diesel engines.
Then there was the highly anticipated and highly disappointing EV Cup that was supposed to start in 2011. Delays in production of the cars meant that the organisers had to cancel the series, which was a shame. The EV Cup would have been aired on TV thus promoting the green message of the electric cars.
Luckily, the misadventure didn’t put other people off the idea of electric car racing, and now we’re all looking forward to the brand new Formula E season later this year. While electriccarsreport.com has been covering Formula E teams in quite a detailed manner, here’s a bit more technical insight into what gear they’re going to be using.
All Cars the Same
The Formula E is going to be a one-make series, which means there won’t be any cut-throat competition or sneaky tricks applied in the paddocks during the night while the race officials sleep. Each team will be given an identical car and it is going to be up to the driver’s skill and his driving style to make the most out of the car.
Although you won’t often hear me say this but when it comes to the Formula E technical regulations, the most exciting part is the limitations imposed by the organisers.
Namely, you’ve got limited space/weight to carry the “juice” around. The combined weight of the battery unit and the Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS) can’t exceed 200kg.
The huge Tesla Model S battery pack weighs around 650kg, the Nissan Leaf’s battery is 300kg. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? If the Formula E guys prove that you can get around on a 200kg battery module, imagine what this could mean for the “civil” electric car industry!
If we draw parallels with the conventional F1 series, it’s been the driving force behind the technical advance touching all levels of the automotive industry. Better tyres, lighter engines, higher safety? Whatever we’re enjoying now in our own cars, was probably at some point tested in the world’s toughest motoring laboratory – F1. Can Formula E become the shining beacon of light for the mainstream electric car industry? I certainly hope so. Maybe this is the impulse we need to at last make those electric cars more appealing to the masses.
Another thing that is limited is the power. During the test and qualification sessions, there will be 200kW of power at the drivers’ disposal. The so-called Race mode will release just 133kW, which is not a lot for a racing car. Just like the DRS button of the F1 series, there will be an option to increase the max output to the 200kW for short periods of time to enable the drivers to overtake. It’s called ‘Push-to-Pass.’ The power use along with other metrics will be constantly monitored by the FIA in a real-time mode. No cheating!
Despite the rather low output, the cars are going to be rather quick. They’ll be capable of 0-60mph in under 3 seconds, while the max speed is limited to 140mph. Not quite the same league as the F1 but no-one really expects them to be. The speed record for an F1 car was set by Honda in 2006 and they managed to achieve 258 mph, while in normal track circumstances the top speeds are around 210mph. To set the record straight, electric cars are capable of even higher speeds, however, allowing the Formula E cars more speed would defeat the purpose of running this series, so I’m actually glad they’ve imposed the limits.
The car’s dimensions are as follows:
Overall length: 5,000mm max
Overall width: 1,800mm max
Overall height: 1,250 mm max
The measurements are pretty similar to the F1, where the width is limited to 1,800mm and height to 950mm. The overall length is not governed in FI, however, overhangs and other aspects of the bodywork are, hence an average F1 car is 4,500mm long. Just like F1, the Formula E is governed and sanctioned by FIA.
A Multi-company Effort
It’s great to see so many different companies working on the same project in what appears to be perfect harmony. The construction of the car was overseen by Spark Racing Technology and Renault Motors, however, the boys who really got their hands dirty were McLaren (electronics and the motors), Dallara (the chassis), Williams Engineering (batteries), Hewland (gearbox) and Michelin (tyres). The level of competence that McLaren has shown in this project can only suggest one thing – it’s not that long till we see a McLaren electric road car.
The steering wheel is quite simple. Nothing like the F1 steering wheel with the daunting number of knobs and gauges. Electric cars are simple and there’s no reason why an electric racing car should be made overly sophisticated. The small (by today’s motoring standards) LCD display shows the driver the most important readings, like, for example, the level of “juice” still remaining in the battery. The three red knobs on the front of the steering wheel are “Brake Power Regeneration Control,” “Gearbox Paddle Control” and “Torque Control.”
The latter is pretty important because these cars won’t have the convenience of the traction control. It’s like driving a TVR Cerbera on an icy road – extreme fun but very dangerous. The Formula E drivers will be able to control the torque that’s directed to the wheels to make sure they remain within the set limits of the racecourse. Then there are paddles underneath the steering wheel that control the gearbox. That’s about as much as you need to know! As you can see, this minimal set of controls is very demanding from a driver and he’ll have to highly skilled to keep this 270bhp beast pointing in the right direction.[wzslider height=”400″ lightbox=”true”]