F1 Winter Break
FIA announces Formula E, is it the future of motorsport?
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Aug 2012   |  12:10 pm GMT  |  146 comments

The world of electric motorsport has taken a step closer after the FIA announced that it has awarded the promoter contract for the new Formula E series to a group called Formula E Holdings, involving French company Formulec, former UK science minister and champion of green racing Lord Drayson and GP2 entrant Alejandro Agag. It is also being funded by entrepreneur Enrique Banuelos.

The series will start in 2014 with a race in Rio de Janeiro after some demonstration runs in 2013 and will feature 10 teams each with two drivers. The prototype car, produced by Formulec, will have a Lithium Ion batteries and a maximum speed of 220km/h and will run for 25 minutes between charges. Entrants will be able to use a Formulec car but are also allowed to design and build their own cars to FIA regulations. This leaves room for Toyota, Honda and other interested manufacturers to enter the series.

FIA's Jean Todt (C)with Agag (L) and Banuelos (R)

The series is interesting in several ways; first it takes some of the heat off F1 being required to be seen as going green, at least for a while.

One of the ideological struggles of the past year or two has been the debate about how far down that road F1 should go with its 2014 new engine formula, with some parties like Renault keen to really push the boundaries and move far away from the gas guzzling V8s used today. Others believe that F1 should remain all about conspicuous consumption, despite the obvious evidence that the world is running out of oil and thus its cost is increasingly unsustainable.

An uneasy compromise has been reached with the V6 1.6 litre turbo engines, which are already being dyno tested by Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari. These will be 30% more efficient than the current units, will have a large proportion of regenerative energy from braking and will run on electric only in the pit lane.

Talk of the new engines not sounding like proper racing engines has dominated the debate, with many parties once again guilty of short-term thinking. The sound will be one of the key things the Formula E promoters must get right from the outset, using synthesised noise.

However the arrival of Formula E allows the FIA to have something to point at to highlight its work in this area and it is a response to pressure from the European Commission chiefs, among others, for the governing body to do more to provide the platform for manufacturers to push innovation in technologies around electric vehicles. Racing has long been proven to be a very effective test bed for the automotive world.

The Formula E races will take place in cities which are leading the sustainable motoring agenda; to maximise the population reach and to underline those cities’ desire to promote environmentally friendly motoring.

FIA president Jean Todt said, “This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience. We are pleased with this agreement with Formula E Holdings as they bring a very strong experience in motor sport. This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share the FIA values and objectives of clean energy, mobility and sustainability with a wider and younger audience as well.”

It will be interesting to see whether the FIA is able to persuade the promoter of F1, Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM, to find a way to showcase Formula E in front of its huge global audience, which would help to spread its influence more quickly, or whether it will have to stand on its own feet.

Will battery powered cars be the future of electric motorsport? I put that question recently to Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, now engaged in work on the future of mobility and transport. He pointed to an experiment in Korea, which he thinks will provide the future model for motorsport.

“The weight of the batteries required to do 15 laps is too much,” he said. “So I think the online vehicle technology, which is a very exciting new technology, only recently developed, for me is the most likely.

“In Seoul, under the tarmac of the road an inch down a primary coil is installed. In your car is a secondary coil. There’s no electricity coming from the primary until your car is over it, so it’s very little energy loss; 93% energy transferred to the secondary coil. And the car is driven on that energy. You have a small, low weight battery in the car and that battery is always fully charged until you drive off the track. Then you use the charge left in the battery.

“I know that sounds like Scalextric. But I think the future of F1 is going to take up these amazing new technologies. ”

It’s a fascinating theory and one we will watch out for. Meanwhile Formula E will start a process of shifting the perception of the way men (and women) race cars and we will see where it leads us.

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Why not allow the battery to be replaced during a pitstop?


ZERCUP Electric Racing World Championship wishes Formula E the best of success as both our series work to accelerate the transition to Electric Mobility. Thank you, Don MacAllister, CEO, ZERCUP Electric Racing World Championship.


Because replacing a battery large enough to be useful would be akin to a drivetrain swap in an F1 car. You are talking about a significant amount of size and mass.


Recharging F-Zero style is cooler. 🙂

A race in Rio? Where? The circuit will be demolished at the end of the year and the plans for replacement are bogus. A sad demise for a former F1 track.


The proposed idea is a street circuit near the "Marina da Gloria"


It´s around here, then: http://goo.gl/maps/n9agK.

Let´s see what they´ll come up with. I don´t see much beyond an AVUS style track (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVUS).

I´m interested in checking these cars out. I hope the synthetised sound is scrapped, though. Let´s hear their real sound, even if it is silence.


It would probably require a block & tackle.


Why not allow an electric car to sound like an electric car? Why synthesise noise, the car would not run silent anyway with road resistance. If It's a whole new formula (unlike F1 with its history and fan expectations), just start true to its origins and green credentials!


Totally agree, I'd love to see electric cars racing at speed without the engine noise. I'll come watch!


Another point on the spectacle is that with the low power, based on the top speed, to get the lap times up, the aero grip could be quite high through ground effects if they've thought about it. You could have cars that are really quick through the corners and then have lots of slipstreaming, a bit like formula ford. Battery operated cooling fans to keep the batteries cool... that just happen to generate suction.


Introducing electric engines to an existing formula would have to consider synthesized noise. I can understand that, but that is not the case for a brand new formula. The sport will draw a new type of fans too. Don't be afraid of the people. There is a lot of interest in alternative fuel in the world. This market is a pretty big niche.


Also agree. High power electric engines make a huge noise, and tesla coils and deafen you. I'm curious to find out what these sound like at full power.


I agree. Just to add to that, in most forms of auto racing you can't hear the sound of the tires pushed to their limits, the roar of the cars piercing the wind or of course the roar of the crowd as with other sports.


I thought same actually.


That would certainly require a lot of time; it's like taking the motor out of the car and installing another as the battery isn't small.


Does it matter if it takes 10 mins?

How long do cars stop with damage at le mans?

Drivers used to run back to the pits and hop into the spare car, bet that could take longer!

It could even be done in the garage...

It becomes part of the race, and an area which teams can look to make big savings.


Why would it take too much time? It can and is already automated on Tokyo taxis through Project BetterPlace and Renault (Israel, Denmark, Australia) and takes less than 30s to swap the whole battery. Drive in/drive out.

It would depend on a standard battery installation over the grid and the length of the races to make it worthwhile but to dismiss out of hand is incorrect. This stuff is already here and working.

The one thing electric motorsport NEEDS to do is to get away from the petrol mindset of fill it up/charge the battery analogy and move towards battery swapping as a key enabler of on the road EVs with maximum useability and unlimited range. Why wait to charge when you can simply swap?


The amount of time to change your battery on your cordless drill about 2 seconds.


They'd just have to design a dolly to slide the battery out and in. It'd be like the contraptions they use to jack up the front of F1 cars during pitstops, but more massive. What could possibly go wrong?


Best news I've heard all year.

So people interested in hybrid F1 (which we already have) can focus on this thing, and the rest of us can have Formula 1 Unplugged (pun intended).

V12s, please.

Seriously though, the idea of 'synthesized sound' seems a bit... weird. If they plan on using some of the battery power to work a huge amp and some speakers, they might be surprised about how much battery power one if these things can go through...


The TT race has a class for electric bikes, they don't bother with any speakers. It is a bit strange a bike going 200+ and the only noise is the wine of the motor.


And what sort of whine would that be, Ashboy? A fine Burgundy perhaps?


I agree with your view on Synthesized sounds. It truly is a bad idea. F1 - sorry FE - should be about engineering. Yes, this might give us ugly step noses, but it is the aesthetics of speed. Same applies to the sound issue.

I actually want to hear the sound of the wind. Perhaps one could have some synthesized sound in the pitlane, for safety measures.

I don't really get this whole sound issue? I am wearing protective ear gear anyway when attending a F1 event.


I suppose they could forget the amps and put some whistles/sirens on them, so that they sound like Ju-87s in a dive... then they can introduce DRS, like in F1, with the added twist that the 'dive' siren sounds when the wing in the chasing car is opened... I would definitely tune in, to watch that!


See, we already have differing viewpoints as to what FE should be about.

You say engineering but its so obviously about PR!

And the FIA is *already limiting it! Instead of just merely saying it has to be electric and letting the engineers sort it out, they already have a formula!

Its already a spec car series and it ain't even off the ground yet!


Leave the noise to F1. I agreem FE should be about engineering - make it obvious from the start and don't patronise those interested in electric engines with synthesised sounds!


"first it takes the heat off F1 being required to be seen as going green" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Surely all of us are under pressure to go green and no pressure should be taken away from anyone in or involved in F1!


“Surely all of us are under pressure to go green and no pressure should be taken away from anyone in or involved in F1!”

Please speak only for yourself. Many of us have not accepted the propaganda coming from environmentalists. My interests in F1 have nothing to do with the environmental agenda and I accept that in almost every way F1 contradicts the environmental agenda.

“first it takes the heat off F1 being required to be seen as going green”

This is perhaps the only positive benefit of the Formula E series. There are no major technological discoveries just waiting to happen that will somehow make Formula E a major breakthrough series.


You're perfectly correct, MC, in a F1 race weekend the entire feild of cars use only a fraction of the fuel one Jumbo Jet uses to make one flight, and most Jumbos are always in the air except when loading and unloading! It's utterly pointless and crazy/stupid to even think of spending multy millions building special cars that might use a few KGs less fuel over the week end only 18 or 19 times a year where-as Jumbos are in the air probably in excess of 300 days/15 to 20 hours per day per year, against approx. 3 to 5 hours for the F1 car over the whole week end! Come to think of it if each car does 100 to 120 laps in the whole week end at 2 minutes per lap it equals up to 4 hours of total running! Pretty insignificant, really, when you consider that multy millions of drivers of everyday road cars spend well in excess of that in their cars 5 to 6 DAYS per WEEK every week of the year maybe for 40 to 50 years of their life!

My advice is "Just let F1 cars get on with the job of doing what they do, and let the specialists get on with developeing different/more efficient propulsion systems for planes, boats, and comuter road cars, then we'll actually save some fuel!



Hahaha go Peter!

With 30 million viewers, four in each vehicle at 60 kph for 2 hours... 900 Mkm at 0.16 kg/km gives 144 000 tons of CO2 saved per race! Equivalent of 60 000 return flights London-Miami. If I did the maths correctly...


And here is another thought: How many people are NOT out driving their cars during an F1 race BECAUSE they are at home in front of their TV?

F1 STOPS pollution I tell you !


I think you’re confusing global warming (denial) with environmentalism. There is no propoganda behind enviromentalism.

Pollution has proven(PRIVEN) to have negative effects on the environment and people that are not all linked to global warming. Just look at Minamata disease as an example of how pollution can negatively affect and environment not linked to global warming. Ergo, any attempt to reduce pollution, has positive environment effects beyond reducing carbon footprint/global warming.

Think of smog and acid rain, results of burning fossil fuel, which is a proven fact. There is no propaganda here, pollution through fossil fuels does have negative environmental impacts. F1 should not be exempt from reducing its environmental impact.


damn right it's a social movement that promotes certain ideals. those ideals are called other human beings not sick and dying because of how poorly we treat our environment. it's not such a bad thing to hope for.

however, i do not disagree that, for example, the implementation of the F1 KERS system is aligned with the spirit of going green. from what i understand, the stress under which the battery units are exposed they are not re-usable. this seems contradictory, if not incredibly hypocritical for an organization endeavoring to reduce environmental impact.


"I think you’re confusing global warming (denial) with environmentalism."

No I'm not. Environmental*ism* is a social movement with an agenda that promotes certain ideals.

"There is no propoganda behind enviromentalism."

There most certainly is, and it promotes the agenda and ideals of the movement.

"F1 should not be exempt from reducing its environmental impact."

Then neither should EVs, yet I don't see everyone crying over the environmental impact of li-ion battery production and end-of-life processing.



F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport & technology. Looks like FE is the new F1.

Who cares about gaining a few tenths in aero gimmicks. Society has bigger challenges to tackle. It's a shame F1 is running away from it. A lost opportunity …


Interesting idea, hope it does well.

James - slightly off topic but do you know when the FIA convene to put the provisional 2013 F1 calendar together? I've looked back over your archives and the last couple of years it seems to have been done by this stage of the championship.

I'm desperate to start booking flights for a couple of races next year!


Wow exiting times although I won't be rushing out to see electric cars racing just yet ! Just a little surprised that the Formula E guys will be charged (pardon the punh) with making the V6 engines sounding good . It just makes no sense- Aside of maybe the pit lane where it will be all electric and too quiet -in fact why do we need this at all ??Isn't it enough to have the technology working in tandem with petrol engines ?I would have thought a screaming turbo V6 would sound ok..From what I recall the Turbo cars of yesteryear sounded ok. Sure it's not a V8! But if the engine manufacturers are advised to make the engines sound similar to now they could do it. Seems to me we are putting the cart before the horse a little prematurely. Leave one Formula to develop the future and another to maintain & improve slowly to the existing Formula- there's not a hec of a lot wrong with what we have now.I think it will just push existing fans away.


It's usually November


So two heats and a final with swappable batteries ? This looks an ideal formula for the Olympic Park, loads of green cred.


You are right. No noise pollution will open this type of racing to a lot more venues near populated areas - it could be incredibly popular and lucrative - once the racing is any good, that is.

With electric engines evenly delivering huge torque at all "revs", car setup will be critical. I think it could be amazing to watch.


Wots the point, though???????



Oh wonderful, yet ANOTHER single make formula (I thought this was meant to be an open formula but your article seems to point at it being spec)with a top speed of 137mph and 300kg(!) of batteries, I predict that this will be excruciatingly boring.

I'm all for so called green technologies in motorsport but I think I'll keep my interest to Audi vs Toyota (and soon Porsche with maybe Honda and Nissan joining) in Prototypes and the new turbo units in F1 for 2014.


I'm sure it won't take too long for other manufacturers to provide their own design of car ("withing FIA specifications") -McLaren would probably want to be out there at least, and others will follow


I wouldn't be so sure. Why would anyone spend all that time and talent on one race scheduled for year after next?

Maybe if it puts on a good show and takes off, but not likely before.


Show me a schedule.

A "series" usually has more than 1 race scheduled. This one does not.


It's not one race. It's a series. The first race will be at Rio in 2014.


"The prototype car, produced by Formulec.... Entrants will be able to use a Formulec car but are also allowed to design and build their own cars to FIA regulations. This leaves room for Toyota, Honda and other interested manufacturers to enter the series."

Not exactly a single-make. Let's just hope they set the design rules nice and early so manufacturers have plenty of design time.


Interesting thought agree one make chassis is very boring. I'll,watch it but stil F1 is always a obsession


There will be the option for independent chassis makers. The availability of a readymade chassis will help the series get started.


James, I commend you for stating something that too often seems taboo for motorsports aficionados: that our beloved sport in its actual form is under the risk of becoming an anachronism.

I drive a 10 years old 130CV car, not a truly sports car, but fun enough, and I drive it thinking more in the price of gas than in having fun (safely, of course).

For me, having fun flooring the pedal means playing videogames these days...


"James, I commend you for stating something that too often seems taboo for motorsports aficionados: that our beloved sport in its actual form is under the risk of becoming an anachronism."

This statement proceeds from a common misconception, that fossil-fueled vehicles are somehow "past" and electric somehow "future." Electrics have been around as long as fossil-fueled cars (literally) but can't get past the physics of storing enough energy electrically to be useful. And that problem won't change in the future.


A common misconception was Diesel could never been an effective as petrol in motor racing. However, dollar into development have improved diesel technology which has made it just as effective as petrol, in racing and in road cars. You cannot claim the same thing will not happen with electric or other technologies.


Are you sure their competing on a level playing field? Engine size, forced induction??


I will admit that electric cars may have been around as long as the internal combustion engine, but I think we both realize where all the development money has gone. Because oil was cheap (until you factor in all the extraneous costs that we don't actually pay at the pump) there was no need to spend money on a power source with a lower energy density. Turns out as the cost of oil goes up that becomes less of an issue. And yes, the problem of storing enough energy is an issue, but if you don't think that is changing you simply aren't paying attention. I invite you to do a little Google searching to compare the energy density of the average battery in a lap top computer and compare it to the D-cell that went into a flashlight in 1953. Or maybe just check out the specs for the Tesla electic car.


"but I think we both realize where all the development money has gone."

Perhaps not. You have unfairly ignored that other market sectors are *pouring* development money into electrical storage and have done so for over a century, which is why we can even talk about a modern laptop’s li-ion battery.

And comparing a 1953 D-cell's energy density to a modern laptop battery without context is likewise unfair. To put things into perspective, I read somewhere that the Nissan Leaf's modern li-ion battery has an energy density of around 13 kWh/Kg whereas an equal weight of gasoline has 2,600 kWh/Kg. That’s 200x greater and shows that after the last 60 years of development, we’re still not even close to parity! The electric car’s problems aren’t new or unknown, nor are they going away just because we throw a little more time and money at it. There is no “breakthrough” development just waiting to happen.

"Or maybe just check out the specs for the Tesla electic car."

In 2009 one was driven 313 miles on one charge. Impressive until you find out that this was done at 25mph by one driver over 14 hours with no luggage and only two stops. (Tesla doesn't admit all of this on their website!) The Tesla is prohibitively expensive and, for the average driver, not very practical.


Why restrict the formula to electric? This is an ideal forum for no-holes barred environmental racing. If Formulec want to use electric, ok, but let the manufacturers and independants develop alternative biofuels if they prefer - then we will really see some new concepts. All FIA have to do is set some environmental and MPG costs, and let the engineers loose.

Also, the issue with electric is not speed, but endurance. Not saying it should be an endurance race, but 25 minutes is not very ambitious.

Finally, good luck to Formulec - if a manufacturer comes up with a better package, they are dead in the water.


Why restrict it to electric? What do you think the E stands for in Formula E!

We've seen biofuels at Le Mans before. You need a much bigger tank as it has to be burnt much faster to produce the same sort of power as petrol does (check out the Nasamax teams involvement 10 years ago, they were turning into a very quick team before the backer pulled out).


I consider bio-fuels a very BAD idea, when the land use to grow the crops for these fuels, is at the expense of growing crops for people.

This is one of the reasons that food prices are increasing. It seems growing crops for fuel is more profitable than growing crops for people. That can't be right.


Actually, you'll find that the main reason why the cost of grain crops is increasing is because greater proportion of those crops are being used to feed cattle. The demand for cattle in China and other countries is soaring and the grain needed to feed them has to be sourced from somewhere. A recent UN report showed the industrial uses for grain crops only makes about 10% of consumption and half that is for bio-fuels.


How about making it a rule in F1 that the top five finishes in the Constructors Championship have to enter at least 1 car in Formula E the following year, and pay them extra money from F1's coffers for the privilege. Then scrap any design rules etc other than those concerenced with Safety and let the likes of Newey and Brawn loose! You'll soon see Electric Cars get quicker and quicker. (Although on 2nd thoughts mabey not Newey the Kers has never worked properly in the bulls!)


You want to increase the costs of competing in F1 to subsidize a non-existant and unrelated series?


+1 Great idea!


Why pull money from Formula 1? If the public is interested in Formula E let them buy tickets! Or maybe we're afraid that the public won't be that interested in an electric series. That's a reasonable expectation given the miniscule demand for electric road vehicles.

"...let the likes of Newey and Brawn loose! You’ll soon see Electric Cars get quicker and quicker."

??? The problem with the feasibility of electrical vehicles is, well, electric (storing sufficient electrical energy to power a car to useful distances at useful velocities). These guys are used to solving aerodynamic and mechanical problems. Of course, the added weight of all those batteries will bring about new aerodynamic problems (packaging) and mechanical problems (weight).


Just use one of those unobtainium Iron Man power cells! 😉


Synthesized noise, are you kidding! Why not a virtual series run on a computer then and forget laying rubber on a real street and the associated poloution? This is doomed to fail.

What sells motor racing is the spectacle. Faked sound is the motor racing equivalent of sub titles. Occasionally a sub titled movie might find traction in niche cinemas, but most are doomed to fail. As is this, with 130-150mph top speed there is nothing to captivate an audience unless what you are going for is looks of disbelief rapidly followed by boredom!

The formula has to start from a perspective of the show and with a hum from an engine it needs high speed to provide that, not faked sound. Guess they could play they sound of locked up wheels to make it appear more spectacular than it is, but I am guessing crying wolf will get old very quickly to an audience!

No this is doomed and worse still it will give E Racing a bad name making future attempts much harder to overcome the stigma! Why not use hybrids and have some engine noise until a real E Racer is possible that will be able to put on a show? This won’t be around long enough for “build it and they will come” to work!


This is the future, its unavoidable. The question is how far is it and weather they can do something on the engine sound front. For me the sound of an electric car is very annoying. Nothing will ever be able to replace the back the V10 or even V8 sensations, but I am supporting the idea of echo friendly motor sport for the future of the next generation. Also key question: where the electric power is coming from? Is the source actually more eco-friendly or not? Until we burn fuel, coal etc. to produce electricity its just window dressing.


This is aimed at city driving and the younger generation. So I don't understand why older codgers are upset that they will no longer hear the sound of wasted energy coming from a steel pipe. If you were never into R/C cars as a kid and grew up getting off on the sound of V8s (many dubbed on) in the movies, don't worry, the 30% efficient ICE engine will still be around on a race track somewhere. You just wont (hopefully) see them air and noise polluting our cities and parks.

All energy comes from the sun by the way. If the cars were pedal powered they would probably be less green, due to the calories required and resources needed for farming food.


This is not the future. The "future" of electrical vehicles has been written all over the past. Read up on the history of electric vehicles and you'll see that the problems haven't changed and won't be changing until we overcome the laws of physics.


I think that perhaps the physics problem you are refering to is inertia.....yours. It sounds like you have a vested interest in the status quo. C'mon, embrace the future - if the movies are right, once we get electric cars flying cars are just around the corner :).


The world is not running out of oil!

Tar sands and oil shale are two sources of massive quantities of oil - it may just be a *little* more expensive than current.


Silly to say the world is not running out of oil, it's a finite resource so of course we're running out. The only question is how fast we're running out.


But we are running out of easily accessable oil, hence increasing fuel prices and industry pressure towards alternate sources of energy which don't involve having to dril and dig ever deeper and wider in more and more inhospitable locations.


An interesting concept but is it the future of motorsport, no it isn't. There's no ambiance, noise, smell.The major problem is battery technology, they are too heavy and inefficient for this purpose.

A hybrid series would be better and may be more attractive to manufacturers.

Electric cars in the commercial market will never succeed until they achieve parity in performance to petrol/diesel cars, and anyone waiting for this is going to wait an awful long time.

It still begs the question of what energy do you use to charge the batteries.


6.3% of the EU's energy comes from wind power and that industry has a lot of growth potential. Burning fuels locally in cities ruins are air quality.

I would be interested to know what roads you intend using an electric vehicle on once they have performance parity with ICE vehicles. In my country, road quality and speed reduction measures mean I now have more fun in lower powered classic vehicles. A small fun light weight electric vehicle has potential for the next generation of drivers who's want to get from A - B, not flex their car's muscles.


A few years ago I was a (young) scientist in Switzerland and we had discussions about developing the "online" (inductive) technology for road vehicles, however the efficiency (energy from the tarmac coils to the car) would be too low to be practical. The 1-inch depth under the tarmac surface is a trade-off between energy transfer (electromagnetic airgap is everything) and tarmac allowance (e.g. deformation in braking zones), and I am amazed that they've found a 93% efficiency.


That 93% was a quote from a politician pushing the idea. Need more be said?


I find the idea of the coil in the tarmac amazing. I figure you could get some insane speeds without having to carry around a big battery


... AND it will stop those naughty drivers going off-track to gain an advantage!!! 😉

Chats worth red

Lithium ion not iron big difference!


I don't know why are everyone so opposed to electric, especially manufacturers. Though I guess they may have their own interests, i.e. Ferrari is about racing, pure gasoline engine, hence LdM recently said they'll never go electric.

Personally, I think electric is fine. Just think of the recent Batman movies, each time you see the Tumbler or Batpod, you hear that electric motor sound coming out of it, yet you don't care coz it's cool, it's exciting and that's all you care about. I think the same applies to racing. Who the heck cares what's powering those cars, if Alonso vs Hamilton vs Vettel and the lot are battling it out like mad with electric cars, then it's just as exciting.

I imagine a portion of us are gamers too, especially in racing. I don't think these gamers care they are racing a virtual thing, runs on electricity and with a console. Nobody cares coz it's exciting and fun.

So I support this Formula E stuff, and support F1 going green.


I'm pretty sure the tumbler has a v8, however I see the point you are making.


I think electric is just fine, too.

I love to race golf carts with my friends. Its fun and exciting and Green. The fact that we've been drinking heavily doesn't hurt, either.


I wouldn't pay to watch that though, and I doubt anybody else would.

The computer game analogy is spurrious as well. The difference between me watching a race and playing a game is very different.


And thats the beauty of it: you don't have to! It'll all be on free-to-air TV, which requires no actual ticket sales nor fans. In fact we do it at a local golf course so no actual track is needed either.

As well, its a big hit on social media, inspired by the fact that they're 2-seaters and you can't go alone because someone has to be able to drive them if you fall out.


"despite the obvious evidence that the world is running out of oil"

Eh? What? Did I miss something? I thought no one really knows how much more oil there is.

If certain oil fields start drying up I expect we'll see a lot of solar-to-ethanol farms springing up in those vast deserts instead of oil pumps.


"The Formula E races will take place in cities."

Well they will have too, because surely FOPA won't allow them anywhere near a race circuit.

So if FOPA are (or were) to be believed, that's no Formula E at Albert park or Monaco etc.


Electric cars are a mere sop to politicians who want to look Green but are too ignorant to look to the future beyond the next election.

Everybody knows that the Toyota Prius and it's brethren are less green over their lifetime than an old fashioned Land Rover or Jeep when you take into account the emission cost of building and recycling, not just the relative cost of fuel.

Most of the Electricity is hardly Green Energy : it comes from burning coal and gas anyway !

How sustainable is it for the UK Government to pay a £5,000 subsidy for every electric car sold here ?

Certainly no more than other Government Schemes.

I'm a great enthusiast for Green Energy :

After all, The British Government has given me a guaranteed 18% return, index linked for 25 years, on the Solar Panels I installed on my house last year !

Daimler Benz and Honda, at least, know that the real future is Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology, not battery power.

Motor Sport is supposed to be at the cutting edge of technology.It should therefore miss out battery Electric Cars and go all out for a Fuel Cell formula.

That would be the single most effective way of pushing development forward and hastening the demise of the Internal Combustion Engine.


Well Done Monza01.

You read my mind.

For a truly green race formula, I for one will be waiting for Formula H.


I imagine that the rules for charging the battery packs will be pretty tight. Using portable generators to charge "green" electric race cars would sort of defeat the purpose.


Mr Allen, as always superb article.

One may question its currency in the long run.

Exon,Shell and other Oil Co are not to concern about it, the stock markets it seems believe

in the same.

Conversely GM budgeted to sell some ( 40.000 )

of their Electric Cars,less then 10.000 has been sold with many litigation against the Co

to its product inclunding a car blowing up.

Well, one never say never,howevershould it

hapen it would be like a game of Tenis or a game of Badminton.


I am really excited about this new electric motorsport. With brush less motors and running high voltages the car technology will constantly be changing at one point may even pass the speeds the fossil fuel cars can do.

Instead of a rapid charge pit stop they should have two replaceable quick chage battery modules for rapid replacement by the pit crew during tire change to be accepted as a motorsport.



I am not against electric cars, but I always laugh when I see words "oil", "lithium ion" and "electricity" in one article followed by word "green".

None of the above is anywhere "green". With such consumption rates the world will indeed run out of oil pretty soon, but I really doubt the humanity will be able in the same time to find a really "green" source of energy – some non-green substitution… probably – yes, ecological (“green”) source – absolutely no.

Today nearly everything that produces or stores energy is NOT green at all: electricity in our houses came from Nuclear, Coal or Hydro plants, Lithium ion battery (or actually any other rechargeable battery) is so “un”-green that I am astonished how everyone keeps calling it green… the Sun and Wind can give almost green energy – but excuse me, there’s no way (in foreseeable future) to use this energy planet-wide 24\7 instead of oil, hydrocarbons and other deadly chemicals…

Yes, the idea of using electricity is uber cool, but until the real “green” source of it will be found I think it is absolutely useless to speak about it being green or at least cheaper than oil... and hey, I don't want to watch F1 racing for only 25 minutes because the cars will run out of juice...


Oh Dmitry,what a wonderful world we live in.

Just imagine a huge aria of mirroros to absorbe

the sunlight to supply the power to vilage or

part of the city, then a tunder storm accures

with the large hail stones? yep the result are glaring,onversely a wind turbine that produce

such a noise polution and resposible for the

killing of untold number of birds, in the Oz land where I live a bilion $ project was halted

simply becouse it was going through little

green frog domain, My friend that is the hypocricy of the world we live in,and let the

piggs fly.


It's not April 1st is it? Synthetic engine sounds is a very silly prospect indeed. You can almost imagine the team accidentally loading the "Culture Club CD" instead of the "Engine Noise CD"

Pitstops should be for a Big Mac, fries and large coke with points deducted for any spillage at the end of the race.


I guess that the most important thing is how motorsports racing affects the global climate and the overall situation in the world.

Motorsports should be green or at least greener. I agree with those people who say here that there are more important issues at stake than somebodys ego or a few lost or gained tenths. It is again about long term thinking.

It is not a thing that started only recently, it should have been thought about some time ago. The benefit of today is that with modern technology and resources it is a bit easier to make the sport green and more nature friendly.

I think that the way the engine sounds is not important at all - if it sounds more or less OK and is not too loud. I think it should be within some norms. If it is quiet, fine with me.


James do you know can engine manufactures develop new engine through 2014 season and beyond that?


Yes, there will be development permitted, as I understand it, so engines will again be performance differentiators


After rewatching the 1996 and 1997 seasons in the break, I am REALLY looking forward to seeing engine development playing a part in F1 again!


This is such an exciting development and sure to generate a new racing experience. Electric vehicles are really cool to drive even today and that's before we see any real sporty EV's (Tesla excepted)

If they could run the series like the Procar series of old that would be great, but I suspect the series will have to be run on shorter tighter tracks than F1 given likely lower speeds.

Either way this is another important important step in the evolution of transportation and mobility from carbon liquid fuel to the clean electro mobility of the future.


Good intentions definitely but do we need ANOTHER racing series? I smell another A1GP ..


It worked in Tron. So it's not new thinking. Fake sound? What a fail.


Really disappointed in F1 on this. They had the opportunity to do something truly ground breaking here, instead they settled on short-term again. It's clear now that Todt felt the need to do something and F1 didn't come to the party.


No reason they should. F1 is a business. Why develop a competing series?


Sorry just to clarify, what I meant was that Todt was looking to these guys to reinvent F1 a bit to reflect today's social concerns, not for them to create a rival series. But now it's clear that when F1 was reluctant, Todt had no choice but to do it another way - new people, new series. He had to act, look at James' comments about the FIA and the EU.

I can see people like Renault, Honda, Toyota and maybe even VW look closely at this new series SHOULD the promoters do a good enough job. They all have massive investments in green energy technology and this could potentially be a great way for them to market that fact, and to also develop their car related green technologies under competition. Like you say, motorsport is firstly a business after all.


"Had to act" and "Todt" in the same para is just laughable.

FIA sets the rules, not "F1" so if thats what he wanted thats what he'd get.

But, no he's got some good buddies of his, compatriots as it were, that have a plan to make some money.

And why on earth would all these big manufacturers pay the slightest attention to a non-existant "series" promoted by some little outfit no one ever heard of.

I don't really believe car companies go racing to "improve the breed." If somebody else comes up with something new, fine, they'll adapt it.

But they go racing to sell more cars.


Imagine a Formula E series that had no limitations on innovation, speed or technology- just a simple rule that restricts the amount of non renewable energy permitted per race.

This would drive some remarkable innovation and inventiveness during the early years, just like F1 used to have, with a wide variety of solutions. This would attract the best and brightest I suspect...


Because then the corps of lawyers at FIA would be out of work?


Won't doubt the improved technologies and the greening.

The sound will surely be like Scalextric multiplied by 32 times? Will it also sound like a huge fork lift.

From V12 > V10 > V8 > V6 Turbo (bumble bee) > hissing, ermm.

I prefer F1 to be as loud as possible, sorry and don't believe in greening F1 at all. Let Formula E be on its own entirely.


I think should the boffins choose to, they could make a racecar sound awesome regardless of what's powering it. The current F1 cars are case in point. They too generte a contrived sound. Achieved through certain methods like extractor piping, lack of mufflers etc. I just think people are making this a sticking point for no reason. These guys could pull off an awesome sound for electric cars if they chose to. Maybe not identical to the petrol cars but something new and truly unique perhaps.

Replace The Whole Car At Pitstops

Because it's more sustainable that way.

Formula E-larious more like it.

Captain Lightning

If sound is to be synthesised, why not the clippity clop of horses hooves? Makes as much sense.

Would it make any real difference to television viewers whether there was any sound at all?


I like the sound of clippity clop of horses. And the poorer

slower teams could have a two man car and the second man will have two coconut shells to bang together because they can't afford the clippity clop horse sound.


Ps: watch monty pythons holy grail movie


James, could this be a first? An opinion it seems ALL your readers (appear to, at least) share?!

And there was me thinking I was going to be the first one here to mock the noise synthesis... 🙂


No, it's not the future because battery power is just completely inefficient, hydrogen fuel cells would be an infinitely better idea.


Funny that so many so-called racing fans are against another open wheel series. A series that because of the shorter race weekend and less noise could be brought right downtown in more cities.

My city lost it's Indy race years ago primarily because of noise complaints. I don't mind flying to Montreal but still it would be nice to attend another race in my backyard.


Not sure why you think the race "weekend" would be shorter. And most street courses really suck and are arguably harder to organize and put on *because they're usually downtown.

No, I'm not against another series, I just don't see any need for F1 to be associated with it.


Street races seem to be pretty easy to sort out in the US, but other than at Monaco, Pau and the Norisring they're almost non-existant in western Europe and non have really taken off in Eastern Europe.

Heck, for a street race to be held anywhere in the UK would require an act of parliament.


I forgot to add... and given how slow these cars are going to be they will be imensly boring around trackslike Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington.


Only in the beginning. I bet if given the chance this kind of technology would start developing at a geometric rate. All we need to do is embrace it and stop fearing change.

I know that petrol power in the last 100 years has ingrained itself in the passion we feel for motorsport but surely it's not the be all and end all. We should embrace this exciting new era and maybe we will look back on the present petrol era the same was as we do on steam power and the industrial revolution today . Cool and awe inspiring, but ultimately low-tech, old and dirty.

Our grandkinds may even thank us for it.


Hi James from sunny Perth

Interesting concept ,would this mean the lower noise levels and speeds would see say an old circuit with good saftey and facillities come back into use?


James reviewed a hybrid-ish car a few months ago, with a small jet engine used to charge a small number (and therefore less heavy) bunch of batteries... That sounds interesting and the noise issue is taken care of by the jets, so why not do it this way?


James, you say "The prototype car, produced by Formulec, will have ..."

"will" have.

So, IS there an actual, running prototype? Or is the picture just a mockup or CGI?


In general, electric motorsport is a very interesting idea. Considering current battery performance, short races are appropriate.

But I would say that mounting batteries into a touring car body would be easier and more fitting in many ways. An open wheeled car has normally higher drag than a sedan body. Which means it is not a very "green" idea to force battery power into formula car. In addition to that, it is simple to associate street vehicles with their racing versions. So I expect EV-s to shine in a series like WTCC(they have a really good format, 2 short races per weekend).

Synthesized noise? The organizers probably think that we are cucumbers. You can only make people hate this series. It almost sounds like a oil-company conspiracy.

It is alright to beep in the pits, but that should be it. How many times we have heard that EV-s are quiet and nice, why blow up this positive image in a such idiotic way?

No nonsense, please.


Yes, it would be *really exciting to watch a pack of killer Prius on the charge.


- "Whatever Tesla has done lately is invisible."

Sad to hear you think so, they are doing great things right now, you should check them out. And they have a really cool, modern thinking boss.

- "And we’re not talking ‘hybrids’"

You're the one who talked about the Prius in your original post.. But don't worry I think that hybrids are just a mid point to going full electric eventually anyway for some of these companies, so I think you were right to bring that car up.

- "Btw to be “relevant” they need to at least *look like road cars, not open-wheelers"

Completely disagree. This would mean that Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and so on are wrong for being in F1 because it won't help them sell their cars. I think you will find that they don't agree with you, especially Ferrari. In fact you could say that because F1 and open wheelers are the most advanced form of motorsport, they are in fact the best way for a company to show innovation and forward thinking, and so in this respect are the best way to sell cars.

- "so today’s choices are Prius, Chevy Volt, and… er, what?"

So that's Toyota, and GM, two of the biggest car companies in the world. They you also have Honda (Insight), BMW (i Series of cars coming out soon), and Audi has also played with electric cars, most notably in the TT (so that's the VW group). Then there are smaller players like Telsa, who recently joined up with Toyota to develop electric technology further. And the list of hybrid cars coming out are endless (which is just one step away from full-electric).

The future is promising for this technology.


They don't need to be Prius' (Prii?..) mate. You watch what happens in the next 5 years. Everyone has jumped on the hybrid bandwagon, even Ferrari (thanks to a little car called Prius), and you cant say what Tesla had done lately is boring... Give it a chance.


Whatever Tesla has done lately is invisible.

And we're not talking 'hybrids'. This is pure electric stuff. The world doesn't give your business a chance; you make it or break it.

Btw to be "relevant" they need to at least *look like road cars, not open-wheelers, so today's choices are Prius, Chevy Volt, and... er, what?

Is there a VoltageWagen yet, btw?


Green? As in more plant life?

That will require there being more C02, the vital plant food gas that all things green live off.

Green F1 = bigger fossil fuel engines.


Electric race cars could be interesting but why should there be some sort of expectation on motorsport to be 'greener'? It's ridiculous!

If all the petrol consumed from every form of motorsport from the last 100 years was added up, I would be shocked beyond belief if it happened to amount to anything greater than a single day's worth of fuel consumption by ordinary road traffic around the world in our present time. Keep in mind that air travel and power generation are not being included either.

When you really think about it, motorsport's 'non greenness' is of absolutely no consequence whatsoever to the big picture of global warming and environmental sustainability. Charging these battery packs still takes energy out of the power grid which is generated mostly by the burning of coal and gas. No real savings or gains are made (basic thermodynamics). It is all PR bull in my opinion.

The real scary thing is that once fossil fuels have been exhausted, motor racing will have to be electrically powered. This probably sounds like one of those silly statements Jeremy Clarkson might proclaim, but real petrol should be rationed for racing! 🙂


Agreed. For me it's not about the green-ness of it. It's about the cool potential of developing this new way of looking at cars and racing.

The green-ness (if it actually is) is a happy bonus for me personally.


But everybody will *think its green because the power plant is NIMBY!


I think it is a good idea that this new racing series is to run on new street tracks, if you put this type of series on at Silverstone etc.. no one would watch it.

Personally i do not see why this series has even been formed, Battery powered cars are not and will not be the future of transport let alone motor racing. Maybe someone will now ask the F1 designers to build a Hydrogen Fuel Cell engine and properly exploit the only alternative to petrol.

I for one will not be watching battery powered cars go racing.



I drive a Tesla Roadster and there's nothing like the sound of that motor whine to make me smile every time I drive it. Artificial sounds have no place in sport, that will just turn it into a game.

Battery swap-out can be done in 2-3 minutes with existing technology and no "race motivation". Let the professional racing engineers and designers get at it and we'll be seeing battery swap-out times measured in seconds and not in minutes. Look up "Better Place" to see how it's already being done with road cars in some countries.


I'll be huge fan of this new formula! I'll love the new sounds, tires in the the track, winds, and the noise of the electric motor. I'm sure it will be a great deal!

Michael Schumacher

Now that the FIA has something to satisfy the tree huggers, can we have proper F1 please. We need to stick with V10,12,8s....V6 is just not F1 !!!!!


I have to say I watched some pretty damn exciting racing in the eighties. As I recall there were a bunch of guys with names like Senna, Prost, and Mansell driving around in 4 bangers, and that was definitely the pinnacle of motorsport technology - not sure I would be willing to say that about today's V8's.


Here, Here! F1 is about entertainment. Normally when there is a party one relaxes the rules of consumption temporarily. Didn't they burn the couldron at the Olympics continuously for 17 days, and leave all the lights on 24/7. No one will be interested in electric cars rumbling silently around a track and synthetic noise? don't be silly!



Loved those V10's!


Short sighted humans once again. Someone tell me the net energy cost to make this happen. Tell me the costs to produce the batteries. The cost to dispose of the batteries. Recycling? Land fill? The smart future isn't electric. Not in its current form.


Doesn't matter. Thats all out of sight and out of mind and therefore does not exist.


Anyone noticed how modern films with all their synthasised CGI are total crap, there's just something missing when you know the action isn't real. Electric cars, at least in the currently accepted form certainly aren't the future not unless there is some quantum leap in battery technology, for the time being, at least, there is plenty of scope for making liquid fuel engines far more efficient and conserving the oil we have. As far as F1 is concerned the amount of fuel used when spread across the number of people that derive pleasure from it( that is what it exists for after all) is absolutely miniscule so I don't think the enviromental issue is relevent. By the way when it comes to the sound, have you ever spectated touring cars? On the longer circuits everyone nods off while the cars are round the other side. Electric cars will be one big ZZZZZZ!


I have just made a quick calculation: To match the energy i 140 kg of gasoline (47,2 mega joule / kg) you would have to drive around with a 6.608 kg Lithium–sulfur battery (1 mega joule / kg)

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