Ex F1 aerodynamicist Migeot unveils vision for Electric racing future
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Sep 2011   |  10:45 am GMT  |  105 comments

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.

Migeot (left) with Gasparini

“A little reasoning is enough to conclude that any thought of an electric Formula 1 car is currently just unachievable,” says Fondtech head of engineering Luca Gaspirini. “Instead, Formula 3 level means delivering exciting performance in terms of straight-line and cornering speed for an acceptably long or, you may say, not too short time, thus resulting in truly entertaining races. While all this might not be achieved from the very beginning it is close enough to be considered reasonably within reach.”

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.”

Migeot's iconic Tyrrell design

Todt is keen to push the EV agenda and it will be interesting to see whether this series gets a showcase on the race card at F1 events. This will require the support of commercial rights holders Bernie Ecclestone and CVC. Ecclestone is dead against green technology in F1, but may see a deal on a series like this as a way of trade off to keep it out of F1.

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.

To find out more about EVs go to our sister site http://www.thechargingpoint.com

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Seems my previous post was deleted… no swearing, no personal attacks, no links???

Basically I was against the idea of battery powered F1 cars and compared them to radio controlled toys. I apologise if that goes against the forum rules.


No, not sure what happened to it – [mod]

Frank_another one

James Allen, i think this article is dangerous to F1 as generating talk to promot a new series which encourages engineers to limitless designs and concepts will turn over all the F1 fan’s (like me) who have that feeling F1 has been missing something special since the aero era turned up and engine development was frozen.

fan’s like to see development and growth through the year and having multiple manufacturers involved in different technologies to achieve the same goal is exciting.

if a formula E was to take off, manufacturers like Toyota and Honda and maybe GM (who have huge R&D budgets already) will be using this as they play ground to use the technology back in the road going cars.

Die hard fans who already enjoy F1 will always stay with F1. But just wait and see how many fans will change categories for the excitement of knowing that technology they see on the track is driving forward technologies that directly relate to enhancing the life of humans in the future.

And personally, watching that TMG going round the nurburgring was the first time i’ve heard tyres screaching and jet engine sounds coming from the same vehicle – it rocked!


Who says you have to follow only one series?


Having watched that Toyota Nurburgring video, I’m very excited about EV.

Forget about it being a “vehicle” (no pun intended) for development – look at it as a new type of racing series that will demand a new style of driving – constant torque, gearless direct drive and energy regeneration – no more high revving exit wheelspin (or not as much) and possibly even a totally different approach to aerodynamics.

Who cares if the batteries weight a massive amount – does anyone care that the mileage of your typical F1 car is abysmal?

I can’t wait to see cars like that Toyota built Radical EV car duking it out to see who can tame the beast of electric power the best. And with the sound of the engine blocked out and environmental awareness increased, not only could new skills be realised but I’ll bet that some existing petrolheads won’t have the balls to drive an EV car as fast as they would a gasoline version.


I don’t see an EV as a competitor to F1 and nothing in the article states or implies that that is the intention. Yes, F1 would be logically louder and the traditionalists would probably/possibly not be terribly interested in it but it would bring a whole new element to motor-racing. It’d bring-in a heap of new sponsors keen on being assosicated with it plus a heap of new engineers with new ideas. I think it’d be great, for example, to one day see EV races where one manufacturer has a “slow discharge” battery to last the whole race competing with another manufacturer who uses “fast-discharge” batteries than could maybe be slid in/out of the chassis at pitstops. Bring it on !


I think Formula E is a great idea. I think they should run it as an open series so that constructors can come up with new innovations and developments quickly whilst competing against each other – in no ways should it be a spec series with only one constructor or the technology won’t move forward quickly enough. The formula can always introduce more regulations down the line.

Formula One on the other hand should not have to go down the electric route, at least not yet.

Whilst something like Formula E will be great for developing new technologies that can be passed onto road cars and I’d love nothing more than for our road cars to become enviromentally friendly with no greenhouse gas emissions, we must remember that Formula One is a sport and shouldn’t have to follow the same laws as road cars.

For example if in 10 years all road cars are electric and we have have a wonderful exciting Formula E class in it’s own right but petrol engines are still the most exciting and powerful when it comes to racing, I see no reason why F1 can’t stick with petrol engines.

As a sport it really wouldn’t contribute anything noticeable at all to global warning and we would have Formula E to pass down exciting Electric tech to the roadcar industry.


Thanks JA, great article, good to see them bringing something cutting edge to the table and I think it will be great for us all as motorsport fans.


James, you say that Migeot designed the high-nosed Tyrrell but from what I can remember, the late Dr Harvey Postlethwaite was always credited with designing this car. Looking at websites, Migeot doesn’t seem to get much credit for his involvement, Dr Postlethwaite’s name always being linked to the Tyrrell 018 and the high-nosed 019. Is F1 history ignoring Migeot’s contribution as when you say he “designed the distinctive high nose Tyrrell” it sounds like he was responsible for this technical breakthrough?


Harvey was the chief designer, Migeot was the aero man behind it and credited with the high nose concept


Odd as it may seem one of the cutting edge industries for ev is radio controlled model aircraft which has had a revolution in the last 15 years. We now have very high charge and discharge rate lithium polymer cells, and very efficient brushless motors and controllers. The result is that internal combustion and electric choice is now a matter of preference rather than performance.

I am very interested in the effect that the motor controllers will have on the dynamics of a 4wd electric car. Think nissan skyline but much much better.


I’ve flown RC planes for years (both nitro and electric) and know what you’re talking about. But there is another important difference that applies to real-world EVs that you left out. Go electric and you must buy two extra batteries or wait 20-30 minutes between runs for charging. With nitro, there’s a reason they say “splash & go.” It only takes a minute to refill the tank and you’re off again.


Finally, you explain yourself. While some of your arguments don’t contain much evidence, at least you explained a bit.

– The EV was invented before the otto cycle IC engine. EVs aren’t “new,” “innovative” or even under-developed.

— Define “under-developed”. This statement is largely irrelevant, and sounds like those who said airplanes were impossible because there are simply “things that are not meant to fly”. Also, it is ignorant to say that since EVs have been around since before ICE cars, that the technology should have surpassed it if it was “meant to be”; the development of EVs requires the development of batteries (or other energy storage devices), which relies on other technologies being developed. Your favourite argument is that EVs were around in the 1800s, but don’t you think that battery, motor and other related technologies have improved?

– EVs have suffered from poor performance, limited range and high cost since inception for fundamental reasons related to physics and chemistry. Storing energy electrically is by nature significantly less effective than storing it chemically. H2 as a fuel has two significant setbacks: (1) Its energy density and specific gravity require an HFC car to store 3x as much fuel as a gasoline equivalent; (2) H2 is not an available fuel until it’s produced from some enormous electrical power source.

— I can agree to that. It isn’t as efficient. The cars will be heavier and have less range. But do we want to keep just burning fuel in our IC engines until the earth is ridiculously polluted? Each area where we can reduce pollution is a good thing. If it means having a less efficient car, then so be it. Turbos make engines more efficient, but I don’t see them on every car on the road. Brings us to the next point…

– Since 75% of the world’s electrical energy production is fueled by coal or natural gas, switching to an EV now isn’t a step away from fossil fuels. Instead, it introduces 4-5 more steps in the *total process* from energy production to application, reducing the efficiency of the *overall system*.

— It’s closer to 65% of the world’s electrical energy production. In certain countries, like France, it’s less than 10%. If we move away from fossil fuels for energy production, then we are significantly closer to having much cleaner air in cities.

– Our way of living in every category is dependent upon petroleum-based products, yet only EVs as an alternate to conventionally fueled cars has achieved pet project status among liberal politicians and their lapdog, the news media.

— Ah, the political bias steps in. Damn those bleeding-heart liberals. Don’t want to be “up to our ears in owls, and out of work for every American”.

– We are not really running out of oil or LNG in this lifetime or the next.

— So? Inconsequential. Just because we have lots of it doesn’t mean we should be using it. Whether it runs out tomorrow or in the year 3129, pollution is pollution.

– And please also explain why energy production in a power plant is more efficient than in an IC engine.

— Coal-fired plants are around 33% efficient, Combined-cycle plants are around 50% efficient and IC engines are around 30% efficient. Of course, I am not advocating that we build lots of coal plants to increase the supply to meet the demand, but if we were smart about it and installed many other smaller plants, efficiencies would be increased and losses such as line-losses would be reduced (as would dependency on single-source plants as in North America where the grid system is prone to failure if a major plant goes down). It’s not a simple answer, but it would be better to do the necessary work to figure out the best answer, rather than “well, we’re burning fuel either way, so why bother?”

– @Malcolm: “and also ignoring alternative electricity production methods (hyrdo, nuclear, solar, wind, etc).” I did not ignore this. You didn’t read what I wrote.

— I just read that “everyone is running away from nuclear”. Isn’t the case in Canada. So far only a handful of countries are aiming to get rid of nuclear power over the next 10 years. Also, in the region where I live, a good chunk of power comes from hydro (enough that people actually refer to power as “hydro” around here); if we adopted EVs, even if there were no advantages to using central power plants over energy production in IC engines, due to the large portion of hyrdo power supplying our electrical sockets, it would result in a greener technology overall. Wind farms are touch-and-go, with the ones implemented by engineers being much more effective than ones implemented by politicians. Still, there are areas where there is a prevailing wind that can be taken advantage of. Same goes with solar. I haven’t heard of anyone running away from solar. Just a reminder: solar isn’t limited to PV cells. Last I checked, reflecting light to boil water and using a steam turbine is pretty green.

– @Malcolm: “ignoring advances to be made in technology” … “battery-swapping possibilities” “ignoring that technologies will improve” These non-existent technologies are not facts that can argue for any point. They may support your EV dream, but I don’t want to contribute my tax dollars to fund them. If you want to develop an EV, spend your own money. That really is the bottom line, isn’t it?

— Fair enough, but where did I say “we need to pour in tax-payer dollars” into this? We’re talking about Formula One here. You really are concerned about where your tax dollars go, aren’t you? Is that your bottom line? I guess the next topic will be that you don’t want your tax dollars going toward healthcare because that will only help other people and won’t help you as much. This is the major problem with many peoples’ frame of mind; they are selfish and think that if something doesn’t directly benefit them personally, then their tax dollars shouldn’t be spent on it. You need to realize that we’re turning into a global community and that a global economy has existed for quite some time. Sometimes your tax dollars need to be spent on research that will not only help you. That said, I don’t think Red Bull, McLaren or Ferrari will be seeing any of your tax dollars, so you don’t have to worry.

– “I worked in the chemical industry for 15 years.”

— That explains a lot of your resistance. I worked for a mining engineering firm for a year, and it was amazing the amount of positive spin you’d hear about all the benefits of stripping materials out of the earth… and how “evil” it was when the Canadian government wanted to enforce Canadian laws on Canadian mining companies working abroad. Evil, of course, because profits were diminished due to more stringent safety practices being required. The point is, any industry puts a great spin on their product, and you got caught up in the chemical industry hype.

As I said, I don’t mind answers that disagree… just back it up with evidence or a decent argument.


It only takes a minute to refill the little tank with nitro, but it also only takes a minute to replace the battery. This same principle could be applied to cars as well. Come in for a pit-stop and swap batteries. Done!

You say “you must buy two extra batteries”, but you conveniently leave out that you must buy nitro every time you want to fly your plane, whereas you can just plug a battery charger into a wall socket.

Your hollow arguments against any sort of EV are extremely frustrating, because your “evidence” is far from convincing, well thought-out or credible, and your conclusions are certainly exaggerated.

“Still using fossil fuels” but conveniently leaving out that they are more efficiently used for energy production in a power plant than in an IC engine, and also ignoring alternative electricity production methods (hyrdo, nuclear, solar, wind, etc).

“Low range” but ignoring advances to be made in technology, battery-swapping possibilities and alternative energy storage methods.

“Heavy” but ignoring that technologies will improve over time, and encouraging this technology in F1 will push research and development in this area very hard.

I don’t mind well-supported arguments that disagree with me… in fact, I prefer them over weak, half-baked arguments that agree with me.


Michael – there are plausible financial models for a battery swap based range extender, even with present battery technology.

e.g. When you buy the car, you buy it without battery. You lease the battery from Acme Battery swap stations for an annual fee. That fee allows you to swap batteries at a station whenever required (for a small fee each time). If your battery totally fails, it’s replaced under your lease agreement with a free tow to the nearest station. Acme charging stations manages the batteries when they die.

You don’t need small, unfeasibly light battery. You need a standardised installation / removal method that is compatible with a load handling system, and a reliable interconnection method for the battery power terminals (and any support electronics).


“Your hollow arguments against any sort of EV are extremely frustrating.”

Don’t confuse getting an answer you don’t like with getting a bad answer. I have argued the following. Tell me which of these assertions is false or misleading:

• The EV was invented before the otto cycle IC engine. EVs aren’t “new,” “innovative” or even under-developed.

• EVs have suffered from poor performance, limited range and high cost since inception for fundamental reasons related to physics and chemistry.

• Storing energy electrically is by nature significantly less effective than storing it chemically.

• H2 as a fuel has two significant setbacks: (1) Its energy density and specific gravity require an HFC car to store 3x as much fuel as a gasoline equivalent; (2) H2 is not an available fuel until it’s produced from some enormous electrical power source.

• Since 75% of the world’s electrical energy production is fueled by coal or natural gas, switching to an EV now isn’t a step away from fossil fuels. Instead, it introduces 4-5 more steps in the *total process* from energy production to application, reducing the efficiency of the *overall system*.

• Our way of living in every category is dependent upon petroleum-based products, yet only EVs as an alternate to conventionally fueled cars has achieved pet project status among liberal politicians and their lapdog, the news media.

• We are not really running out of oil or LNG in this lifetime or the next.

@Malcolm: “‘Still using fossil fuels’ but conveniently leaving out that they are more efficiently used for energy production in a power plant than in an IC engine.”

You are leaving something out, not me. We’re talking about an *entire system* here, not merely the point of energy production. Re-read my comments on this topic.

And please also explain why energy production in a power plant is more efficient than in an IC engine.

@Macolm: “and also ignoring alternative electricity production methods (hyrdo, nuclear, solar, wind, etc).”

I did not ignore this. You didn’t read what I wrote.

@Malcolm: “ignoring advances to be made in technology” … “battery-swapping possibilities” “ignoring that technologies will improve”

These non-existent technologies are not facts that can argue for any point. They may support your EV dream, but I don’t want to contribute my tax dollars to fund them. If you want to develop an EV, spend your own money. That really is the bottom line, isn’t it?


I don’t recall claiming that RC nitro cars and planes were a perfect analog to full scale. Please re-read my post without exaggerating my intentions for the sake of *your* argument.

Regarding your battery swap idea, I encourage you to pursue your idea further. Google “EV battery” and you’ll find that it’s the single largest and heaviest component of any EV, integrated into the chassis in the lowest possible position. An EV battery swap is akin to a powertrain swap in a conventional car.

All you need to do is come up with a presently non-existent small, light and powerful EV battery to make it work.

But until that happens, neither will swapping.


Love the idea!

But making it a single supplier series would be against the idea of pushing new technology forward. Perhaps letting multiple teams by from two or three constructors could be a good way to start the series at a lower cost and still promote technological advancement.


Several people have commented on why put a cap on power. I agree, put a cap on the battery weight and let the engineers sort out how to get the most out of them. If car speeds start getting into the dangerous zone increase the race distance or reduce the max weight of the batteries. Also, don’t limit the battery tech. If someone can make capacitive nano-tubes work, then GREAT! Saying “make the most out of X” is an interesting engineering problem and will push the tech forward, saying “you can only achieve Y” stifles truly creative innovations. Look at F1, it used to be that we’d see the tech (VTec, abs, traction control, etc ) make it into production cars, but now all the research is into aero and fine tuning engines that fundamentally haven’t changed in 10 years that is useless to production cars.

As for the noise, that is a signature of F1 as we know it. But so is the aero, when wings first started appearing on cars how many people decried the end of the sport and how they didn’t want to go watch airplanes flying upside-down on roads. The sport moved on, maybe lost some fans along the way, and never looked back. I would love to see F1 allow unlimited regenerative braking, no limit on how much KERS you have. Let the engineers loose – the better they make it the better my car will be. If power/speed becomes a safety issue, limit the weight of fuel allowed for the race. Yes, this will shift the cars to a more “green” tech, but it will be a natural evolution over time (which will happen one way or another). Without artificial constraints, and with huge potential to translate into tech that one day I will be able to use in my car.

Don’t put artificial limits on tech (only can use KERS for 6 seconds per lap, only can have 200 watts of power, etc). Put limits that keep the cars in the sane/safe range, but allow the tech to move forward.



Agree totally. It would be so arrogent for the rule makers to think they know best how to solve this engineering challenge.

Why turn the engineers into rule loophole finders from the start when they could be coming up with new solutions.


Agree 100%.

Pretty much what I’ve been thinking/saying since KERS was first introduced, sadly as a push-to-pass gimmick.


I don’t get the concept of turning Formula 3 into an electric formula while the whole idea of the junior formula is to prepare drivers for Formula 1. Now how can you prepare to drive a rear-wheel 700bhp car while driving four-wheeled 270bhp electric vehicle?


They just want to match F3 performance, not replace the formula.

Also, seeing that F3 cars have approximately 200 bhp, your argument of a 270 bhp car not preparing drivers for F1 seems a little hollow. Sure, there’s the difference between AWD and RWD, but at the 200-300 bhp level, you honestly wouldn’t notice a difference in the dry as those cars couldn’t spin those rear slick tires if they wanted to.


The huge difference between an electrical and petrol car is the torque distribution – that’s my main point.


Unless the teams’ come equipped with a lot of batteries I would think that it would be incredibly difficult to accomodate all the sessions that would be required to run a competitive race weekend. More than 1 session a day would probably mean a requirement to swap the battery packs between sessions? I suppose it would depend on how quickly the batteries could be recharged.

Friday Sessioned practice (x2?)

Saturday Qualifying

Saturday Race

Sunday Race


0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds ? Thats like a Kf2 Kart.


For those obsessed with pronouncing battery technology dead on arrival (and EV racing series along with it) the linked article on Cambridge Crude (http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/06/10/sludge-battery-breakthrough-at-mit-sparks-cambridge-crude-speculation/) might be of interest.

It is fascinating what focus and investment can yield in advancing new ideas and solutions. You would think that a sport that is continually touted (by itself and its fans) as being the pinnacle of technology and innovation might find the opportunity to take a crack at a whole new thread of applied science and engineering to feel a little like kids at Christmas rather than being marched off to the gallows.

What this attitude reveals is the innate conservatism of the sport and the impulse to protect current investments and revenue streams rather than imagine future ones.

This conservatism also seems to be bundled nicely into the planning process for the new EV series. Sprint races? Come on!

Until technology solutions like Cambridge Crude can be readied for real world testing, you would think that the least that planners of a new EV series could do would be to bring pitlane refueling back as a central feature racing. A series that encouraged batteries to be swapped when they ran low would present new design challenges and opportunities for races to be won and lost in the pit lane; keeping the whole team an integral part of the racing action and the pitlane remain a fascinating place to be.


Fuel cells are about a million dollars per, due to the large amount of platinum required for the electrodes.

Until platinum becomes cheap, fuel cells aren’t viable.


Platinum content in fuel cells, and hence fuel cell cost, continues to reduce. There are also research projects going on with alternatives to platinum (e.g. Carbon Nanotubes). There’s more than one way to fuel cell viability.

The hydrogen fuel cycle is rather inefficient when compared with a battery powered vehicle though. In order to move a car, you have to:

1) Obtain fuel from some source,

2) generate power from that fuel,

3) transport that power to the hydrogen station

4) use it to electrolyze hydrogen,

5) transfer it to the vehicle,

6) pass it through the fuel cell to generate electricity, then

7) Finally convert it to motive power at the wheels.

If you use a battery, there are less steps in the process.

1) Obtain fuel from some source

2) Generate power from that fuel,

2) transport it to the destination

3) transfer it to the vehicle (charge the battery)

4) Convert it to motive power at the wheels.

The result is that battery vehicles will probably always have better ‘Well to wheel’ efficiency than their fuel cell equivalents.

The main problem with battery powered EVs is the limited range, and the time taken to recharge. Battery-swap stations are probably the nearest term technology to solve issues of taking battery EVs on long trips.

Given the current state of battery technology, a sprint race series is probably more practical than an endurance series. Having said that, an endurance series with battery-change pitstops may stimulate development of some interesting strategies for battery-pack changes and / or better, longer-range batteries.

There’s a lot of truth in the old adage ‘Racing improves the breed’. A MotoCzysz narrowly missed out on a 100mph lap of the TT course in this year’s TT zero race with a top speed of about 150mph. The lap speed is up from 87mph just 2 years ago at the first electric TT race I would love to see electric racing take off on both two and four wheels.

There are plenty of challenges, but engineering challenges breed engineering solutions. Let’s get racing and see where it leads.


Unless you can eliminate fossil fuels from step 1 in either case, you’ve accomplished nothing positive while succeeded in building a heavier, slower car with short range. And neither of these processes is as energy efficient as burning a fossil fuel to produce kinetic energy directly. Ie,

1) Obtain fuel from some source

2) Convert it to motive power at the wheels.


I did find a reasonably reputable reference quoting charge / discharge efficiency of 99% for a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery.


This would improve the total efficiency of our system up to about 76%.

“So I wonder whether this talk about EVs being more efficient than petrol cars is even necessary.”

Efficiency is very necessary to the EV argument. Granted, one positive impact of electric motive power is that you can use power generated from any number of different sources. It allows us to use renewable energy for vehicular transport, breaking the dead dinosaur link. We aren’t that energy rich. Fossil fuels are a finite resource, and we’re going to run out of them some time.

Even by the best estimates, however, renewable energy is only part of any future energy strategy, and is likely to account for less than 30% of our energy needs. If EVs don’t also improve how efficiently we use up fossil fuels, what’s the point? One of my problems with fuel cells is that we aren’t making any gains in energy efficiency over a gasoline engine. Sure, it’s cool technology, but if the source of that energy is a fossil-fueled power station which also pollutes, what have you gained?



Regarding the efficiency of a modern petrol engine, the source was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_efficiency#Gasoline_.28petrol.29_Engines

“Modern gasoline engines have an average efficiency of about 18% to 20% when used to power a car. In other words, of the total heat energy of gasoline, about 80% is ejected as heat from the exhaust, as mechanical sound energy, or consumed by the motor (friction, air turbulence, heat through the cylinder walls or cylinder head, and work used to turn engine equipment and appliances such as water and oil pumps and electrical generator), and only about 20% of the fuel energy moves the vehicle.”

Regarding electric drivetrains, after a bit more research, I think my original efficiency rating quote may have been about 10% high.

Quoting the electric motors wikipedia page, referencing the Brushless AC motors that are the typical motor of choice in modern EV applications, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_motor#Brushless_DC_motors).

“Brushless motors are typically 85–90% efficient or more (higher efficiencies for a brushless electric motor, of up to 96.5%, were reported by researchers at the Tokai University in Japan in 2009),”

Let’s give a conservative estimate of 85% for motor efficiency. You also have to consider the power amplifier that converts the battery voltage to the motor drive current. A well designed three-phase switching power amplifier can operate at about 90% efficiency, so that must be multiplied by the motor efficiency.

There are also some losses with the batteries themselves. The Wikipedia page for Lithium Ion polymer batteries quotes a charging efficiency of 99.8% for these cells, but in the absence of any supporting references for this quoted number, I’m going to knock that down to about 90% to keep things conservative. If we multiply 85% by 90% by 90%, we get an efficiency for an electric drive system of approximately 69%, so let’s call it 70% to keep a round number. Still a lot better than 20%, and with a few technological advances, 80%-90% efficient drivetrains are probably achievable.


Jeff: “A more fair comparison with a petrol vehicle would be…”

I’ll give you that. One problem with this analysis is that many of these steps are difficult to quantify. Some of the processes are shared with other products/uses. Some have practically no hit on efficiency. But interesting considerations.

I had a thought while considering this. Efficiency is only a *vital* concern with EVs and HFCs because of two major problems: (1) the difficulty of generating the energy required to power a vehicle (both EVs and HFCs) and then converting that into fuel (H2 for HFCs), and (2) the relative inability of EVs and EFCs to store adequate energy to power the vehicle compared to petrol cars.

With petrol cars, we still talk about efficiency and it is somewhat important, but it doesn’t control the system. Most of us drive a vehicle that is larger and more powerful than our basic needs require. The system is so energy rich that efficiency is only a matter of cost reduction for those who care.

So I wonder whether this talk about EVs being more efficient than petrol cars is even necessary.

“Also consider that the efficiency of step 5 in a modern petrol engine is about 20%, and the equivalent efficiency of an electric drivetrain is about to 80%”

Do you have a source I could reference?


A more fair comparison with a petrol vehicle would be.

(1) Obtain fuel from some source

(2) Refine it into petrol

(3) Transport it from the refinery to the pump

(4) Transfer it to the vehicle

(5) Convert it into motive power at the wheels.

Also consider that the efficiency of step 5 in a modern petrol engine is about 20%, and the equivalent efficiency of an electric drivetrain is about to 80%

The Well to wheel efficiency of a petrol vehicle is comparable with a fuel cell vehicle, but much lower than that of a pure electric vehicle.

Even if we get 1/7th of our energy from Solar, and perhaps another 1/7th from Wind and wave power, and another 1/7th from more efficient use of the current electricity generation capacity already in existence, that’s almost twice as good as continuing to use a dwindling fossil fuel resource in inefficient dinosaur burners.



Malcolm, please re-read his post and mine. We’re not talking about the mere generation of energy, but its transfer, storage and application. My point is that with 5 extra steps, the *process* is less efficient.

Also, what alternate ways of generating electricity do you have in mind? The world is running away from nuclear. Kinetic sources are both limited and potentially destructive to the environment. Solar energy output is totally insufficient and the production of solar panels environmentally destructive.


Large power plants, even if they are coal-powered, are incredibly efficient and would provide much less emissions than a lot of smaller cars generating power from their little engines.

It would be a positive step, as efficiency is increased overall.

Also, electricity can be generated in many ways, and not all of them rely on coal or other fossil fuels.


Anything that spins at high enough revolutions to propel a car to 260kph is going to make some noise.

Will it be the same, or as loud as a V8/10/12 ICE? Of course not, but I think people put too much on the sound of the engines contribution to the overall experience. Most people will only ever see an F1 race on television, and not get the full effect of a screaming V12 anyway.

As far as the cost goes. While no proper race car is cheap, I think following the changes coming to Indy cars next season could be a good idea. A basic chassis that the teams can adapt their own motors, and aero devices to. Teams can either develop their own aero packages, or select one from a couple of different companies that are slated to produce aero kits.

That could give a good mix of affordability, and opportunity to push the tech forward.


What about the hydrogen fuel cell which James May seemed to think was the future? i see some London buses are also using this concept. Has this now fallen out of favour?

Tom Haythornthwaite

I think this is important and I look forward to the day when 20 minute Formula E races feature on F1 Sundays. Once we’ve sorted Bernie out.

The series should *definitely* be an open championship with manufacturers competing, rather than a single-make series.


Make ’em run on bar-treads – you can hear an old Land-Rover coming for miles!!


Why does it have to be battery powered?

I agree with James May of Top Gear,use Hydrogen Fuel cell technology instead. Take hydrogen, combine it with oxygen from the atmosphere, and voilà you have electricity. No need for heavy batteries. James May demonstrated a car using this technology in one of the previous Top Gear episodes.

Just a thought.


“No need for heavy batteries.”

But there is a need for a huge fuel tank. HFC vehicles can go about 1/3 the distance of their gasoline powered equivalents on a per-liter of fuel basis. That means that you’d have to store 3x the fuel used in today’s F1 cars, or shorten the race by 2/3.

This problem is not a matter of design immaturity—it’s a physics problem caused by H2’s very low specific gravity and energy density compared to gasoline.

And don’t forget that H2 as a fuel doesn’t exist until you generate it.

I don’t see EVs or HFCs being a viable technology for F1 any time soon.


Fuel cells require platinum electrodes, which means they are stupidly expensive. Sure, they can fill a car up with hydrogen, but you’ll need a million-dollar fuel cell to work the way you want it.

If they went the hydrogen route, they’d be better off to use BMW technology and use it as a fuel in a combustion engine.


There is so much platinum deposited on our roads now from Catalytic converters that there are plans to recover it from the road.

This is in parallel with recovery of gold and silver from ground up mobile phones, computers, tvs etc This is now considerably cheaper than mining it (apparently, according to QI)


Cheaper doesn’t mean cheap.

Also, a business is a business… even if it only costs X amount to pick it up off the roads, you then have to consider how you want to use it. Do you want to make a little bit of money making fuel cells, or make a lot of money selling it in platinum bars to jewellers and the like?

It’s not necessarily the cost of retrieval, but also the value of the material. Businesses want to make money, so they’ll sell that platinum however they can to maximize profits.

I can’t see them giving up that profit just to make fuel cells.


The electric car died already. A premature and ugly death.

LNG. The known reserves will outlast our great grand childrens lifetimes.

But im not a politician so what would a hick like me from NW Australia know about any of this…


How on earth do you come to that conclusion? The electric car in terms of something that has batteries and is plugged in to recharge may be a very long way off, but electric powered vehicles either in the form of a hybrid or an electric motor powered by physical fuel such as fuel cells is far from a distant possibility. Oil may be a long way from running out, but as the price of oil rises alternative power sources are going to become more economic.


Most of ‘reserves’ of fossil fuels (including LNG) sound great on a company or country’s ‘books’ — but in reality they’re often very difficult and dangerous to extract. They might be exploited eventually but only when the cost of oil rises above $200/barrel or so (it’s at $100/barrel at the moment).

Imagine how those sort of prices will impact on society — just think, for instance, how much fossil energy is embodied in the food you eat. Food represents 50% of an ordinary family’s income in many of the countries F1 visits.

We’re in a time of great change of which energy vulnerability is a significant element. F1 needs to do its bit — not carry on as if nothing’s different.


I do wonder why the Formula is going to be using battery technology. A better method would be a Hydrogen Fuel Cell. The limitations of using a battery (high weight, low range, not to mention the materials that go into making the battery) must mean that this really has a limited life in the electric car world. Imaging what can be achieved with a HFC car if F1 engineers were let lose on it.


“Imaging what can be achieved with a HFC car if F1 engineers were let lose on it.”

I wouldn’t be so optimistic. The energy density of liquid hydrogen is 270 BTU/ft3 compared to gasoline’s 920 BTU/ft3. This means that to store the same amount of energy, an HFC fuel cell would have to store over 3x the amount of H2 by volume, so obviously the car would larger and much heavier. If this weren’t a significant engineering obstacle, we’d be doing it already. As it stands, the HFC was invented in the 1800s and we’re still not using it.

Another problem is that H2 doesn’t really exist anywhere. You have to *produce* the fuel first (usually done using coal or nuclear generated power), unlike gasoline which is merely *processed* from an already existing hydrocarbon.


What you are saying is ridiculous, you can not put liquid hydrogen into a car, because it has to be kept at extremely low temperature which is impossible to do safely in a car, what you can do is just pressurize hydrogen but energy density of this pressurized hydrogen is even worse than a battery. You can google this…


Thanks for the info on the energy of Hydrogen Vs Petroleum. I didn’t know that. But how does the power and duration to weight of a HFC car differ to that of an Battery car? (I don’t expect you to answer, it’s more of a general question).

With regards to your other point. You also have to *produce* the electricity to charge a battery car. My comparison was HFC vs Battery, not Petrol.



Typo. Make that “inefficient” in the last sentence above. My point is that as a system, both electric and HFC are inefficient compared to fossil fuel. There will always be sacrifices.


Storing energy chemically is always superior to storing it electrically. But this type of comparison is difficult to make because it’s always apples to oranges—how big of a battery vs. what size fuel cell, etc. Presently, the market isn’t satisfied with either solution. The electric has poor range and performance. The HFC will have no trunk.

Yes, you must “produce” the fuel for both types making each more efficient.


I believe the Fuel cells run at a high temperature too. There is one car in the USA running on a fuel cell.


I can understand limiting the size of the battery, by why limit the maximum power output? Surely if this is to push the EV tech forwards engineers need to be encouraged to continually do more with less – if they can get more juice from the same size battery to gain a competitive advantage surely they should be allowed to?



This is just a proposal but it seems to be just the type of awful idea that the FIA would come up with. Limits on every possible detail including power output, weight distribution, types of motors and drive allowed, tire sizes, etc.

If the only limits were car width and the crash protection for the driver imagine and the engineers could do whatever they wanted what a fascinating series this could be. Like the early days of F1. 2wd vs 4wd. 6 wheel cars.

If there is only one type of car how interesting is that?


An open “E” series would be an excellent addition the the F1 support bill, it wouldn’t be too tough to add a couple of 20 minute races into the schedule on Saturday and Sunday. I’m sure most people wouldn’t mind it replacing the Porsche SuperCup.

“EV” might not be high on Bernie’s agenda right now, but it is for sponsors, fans, the media and manufacturers, this surely is the logical way forward.

(that said the FondMetal car looks shocking, why not put the batteries in the side pods?)


They must be careful of “shorting” while cornering!

I think the idea is good but it will take a lot of development to get to the level that F1 is currently producing. Maybe Electric F1 is where Schumacher can set new records!

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