There has been a raft of activity recently around the new FIA Formula E series, set to debut in 2014 and JA on F1 has recently interviewed Alejandro Agag, promoter of Formula E.
Agag says the new zero emission motor sport championship is targeting a reverse calendar to F1, which will see the series start in September and end in June.
Also recently the series announced that Bangkok, Thailand is a candidate for one of the two remaining slots on the 2014 calendar. The city is close to a Formula 1 night race and Formula E is dealing with the same promoter. Formula E has received formal letters of interest from 23 cities across five continents. The final calendar will be presented to the FIA for its approval at its World Motor Sport Council meeting in September this year.
The championship is set to start in September 2014 with 10 city centre races – eight of which have already been announced in the form of London, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Putrajaya (Malaysia), Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer has also joined the series as a global partner.
Agag, whose BARWA ADDAX team won the GP2 teams title in 2008 and 2011, added that he hopes to unveil the electric car which teams will race in the inaugural season this September at Frankfurt Motor Show, before giving the machine its first run in public in October.
“We are seriously considering a calendar which goes the other way of other motorsport championships, with a start in September through to June like sports such as football,” Agag told JA on F1. “It’s gives us a unique position. We could race when other racing championships are not there.”
The Formula E races will feature single seater cars, with the initial design for the car pictured below, powered exclusively by electric energy. For the first season, teams will use a car supplied by a single manufacturer, but from the second year onwards, Agag wants to encourage other manufacturers to enter the sport.
Races will last an hour and will feature the drivers swapping cars after 20 minutes, because that is how long the current generation battery will last.
Drivers will return to their original car after 40 minutes when it has been charged, for a final burst. Moving forward, Agag hopes the technology will improve to the point where a car swap to enable a recharge won’t be necessary.
“Races that last 20 minutes would be too short,” said Agag. “People may feel curious about the concept of swapping cars but this will change as we show the development of batteries. In the second season, the battery will last 30 minutes and in the third season 40 minutes. We will then probably not need to swap car and people will be able to see the advance in battery technologies.”
It’s this kind of technological advancement and sustainable approach to racing which Agag hopes will ensure the future of the championship.
“We think the sustainability angle is the key attractive element,” he said. “It is sustainable and the championship will have a positive effect on the quality of air in host cities, by promoting the use of electric cars.”
In line with that mantra, Michelin, who won the tender to be the championship’s tyre supplier, want to apply whole new technology to championship. “Michelin want to create long lasting tyres, green tyres which make cars go for longer with better economy and cost the consumer less,” added Agag.
The promoter also wants to bring fans closer to the action by having the pit lane further away from the track and allowing spectators to get up close along a long pit lane entry, which could be around 500m.
“As the cars won’t be going that quick in that area, we are talking to the FIA about not have fences so that the public can get closer,” he said. “We are working on many different things like this and adapting them to the city environment.”
One of those things Agag mentions is bringing the sport to another demographic through online gaming.
“We are working very hard on an online, real-time video game,” he said. “It’s a huge technology. We want kids to be able to play with a shadow car in real time during the race. That will catch the attention of a different segment of the market.
“When today’s kids buy a car, the first car they buy could be an electric car if they have been playing with an electric car computer game or they have been watching an electric racing car in a championship. They will be more inclined to buy electric so it’s a long term project.”