Ever since the FIA fired the starting gun on Formula E; a challenge to the motor sport industry to come up with the best model for a premier level electric vehicle international racing series starting in 2013, there have been all kinds of expressions of interest in the tender process.
Today the French aerodynamics guru Jean Claude Migeot, who designed the distinctive high nose Tyrrell, driven by Jean Alesi in the early 1990s, has unveiled Formula REV, his vision for how it should be done.
Migeot, who now runs the Fondtech wind tunnel business in Italy, used by Team Lotus, believes that the FIA series should be based on a 20 minute sprint race format, akin to Formula 3, with low drag four wheel drive single seaters. The battery would be limited to 300kg, with a minumum vehicle weight of 750kg, the maximum electrical power would be 200kW. This would give performance of 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 260km/h. The range of the vehicle would be 50 kilometres.
The 4WD is eye catching; Migeot’s rationale is that 4WD will provide better energy regeneration under braking, increasing range. It will also offer more control over traction and the electrical contribution to braking, making for a more efficient vehicle. This he feels will be a key development area for road car technology in future.
He addresses the fundamental issue of weight of batteries versus range of car.
“It is surprising to realise that a 300kg Lithium-ion cell battery pack can store an amount of energy approximately equivalent to that of just 4 litres of fossil fuel,” says Migeot’s statement. “Even when you consider that an electric motor is vastly more efficient than an internal combustion engine, this huge battery pack only provides the same amount of mechanical energy “at the wheels” as approximately 12 litres of fuel. For this to be compensated FondTech had to adopt new ways of thinking and break certain taboos when it came to its first F-REV design.
“Where energy consumption is critical, it becomes imperative to develop very low drag configurations whilst working on aerodynamic efficiency to maintain stable downforce and subsequent high cornering speed. This of course brings FondTech back to the heart of its core competence and day-to-day business.”
There is a big push from the EU and from Jean Todt’s FIA for the electric racing series to be a mobile workshop to push forward the development of EV technology for the motor industry, in particular solving the issue of increasing the range of the battery powered EVs to something a motorist would feel comfortable with.
“I believe that large improvements will possibly come only from the development of battery cell technology,” says Gasparini. “This has already happened in the last 20 years going first from Ni-Cd to Ni-MH and then to Li-ion cells. Electric racing cars will play a role in pushing further forward this process of continuous technological development.”
Meanwhile Migeot says that he doesn’t feel that the “sound issue” is an issue at all, “I think people will realise there is a misconception when it comes to an electrically produced sound, ” he says. “Whenever you mention a high revving machine you are not talking about silence. You lose the pulse-generated noise of an internal combustion engine but it is a different kind of sound which is more like that of a jet engine.
There remains the question of how the FIA’s Formula E series should be run; should it be a single make series, with one organisatio, such as Fondtech, supplying the cars, or should it be an open championship with manufacturers and tech companies competing against each other to win a tech war?
“The long term solution looks clear: set free the best engineers’ creativity because time is running out,” says Migeot. “Formula E should be an open formula because it is the start of a new era and not a market product. Having said that, what is the best way to reach that point in a short space of time when today we effectively start from zero? I think the FIA wants to be pragmatic and explore any other options on the table.”
Toyota is known to be interested in Formula E and recently succeeded in smashing the EV lap record at the Nordschliefe in Germany as a statement of intent about getting involved in Formula E.
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