Formula E unveils its new chassis for 2014 series
Innovation
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Sep 2013   |  10:51 am GMT  |  134 comments

After much expectation, the Formula E car that will contest the new zero emissions racing series starting next September was launched today at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The Spark-Renault SRT_01E is a fully electric single seater racing car, designed aerodynamically to encourage overtaking, is built by Dallara, with technology input from F1 teams McLaren and Williams. Spark, run by ART Grand Prix’s Cedric Vasseur, has designed the car and assembled a consortium of motorsport technology firms to supply key components.


McLaren produces the electric motor, which has been developed for the next McLaren road car, the P1, as well as the gearbox and electronics. While Williams is responsible for the supply of batteries and battery management systems, which will produce 200kw (270 brake horsepower).

The idea of Formula E is to promote electric vehicles, particularly to city dwellers, as the races will all take place in the centre of some of the world’s lading cities like London, Rio, Berlin, Los Angeles and Beijing.

There will be 10 teams, with two drivers each in the inaugural series which will kick off in September 2014.

The car will run on 18 in wheels with Michelin treaded tyres, the idea being minimum tyre use, so that one tyre works for dry and wet conditions.

“With Formula E being an open championship, the series gives manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their electrical energy innovations and we’re delighted to have Spark Racing Technology as the first, and for them to produce our new fully-electric Formula E car, ” said Formula E boss Alejandro Agag.

“Spark has enlisted the very best companies in motorsport to aid with its development, with Dallara, Renault, McLaren, Williams and Michelin all leaders in their respective fields.”

Peter van Manen, Managing Director of McLaren Electronic Systems, which makes the electronic control units for all current Formula 1 cars said, “These cars are going to be brilliant racing through the centres of cities. Electric motors deliver instant torque and acceleration and that is what McLaren is all about. Performance and efficiency. Our electric motor, developed originally for the McLaren P1, has the highest power-to-weight ratio in the world. McLaren is proud to provide the performance behind Formula E.”

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1

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2

Saw the chassis in real life at Frankfurt motor show and it looks absolutely stunning!

Great take on the tyres – they look like you could fit them on road cars. That makes a great marketing platform I think.

If the teams can fiddle a little with the chassis – add or alter spoilers and flaps, these things will look really great!

3

It looks to be an very interesting formula, but how does the performance of the car measure up to current F1 cars, are they brutal enough, to interest top drivers (even if the $$$ are big enough)?

Is there any chance we may see the likes of Rubens or Massa joining F.E.?

What about broadcasting who has got the rights in the UK?

4

Given their F1 form this year it comes as no surprise that McLaren and Williams were involved in designing a car that encourages overtaking. Maybe some of the Formula E and Formula 1 plans were mixed up at the photocopying machine 😛

5

Why is the car called Renault if the engine is provided by McLaren?

6

“Overseeing all the systems integration will be the Championship’s Technical Partner Renault, a leader of electric vehicles and an expert in motorsport thanks to its Renault Sport Technologies and Renault Sport F1 programmes.”

That’s all I saw on Renault’s involvement.

7

They have worked with Spark to develop the car, I believe

8

The series needs some “crowd pulling name drivers”. I think they need Sebastian Loeb, Montoya, Kobayashi, Alonso (if he packs up and leaves Ferrari when Kimi doesn’t let him past), Webber, Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert, Anthony Davidson, . . . . .Tiff Needle and The Stig!

I’m sure many won’t have a problem handling 270hp. Perhaps even some JAonF1 forum posters – who say that Webber is 2nd rate. Let’s see how they go against a 2nd rate driver! The JAonF1 forum will be full of buzz!

9

I love Montoya. Not sure if he would be interested though.

10

He’s in America, perhaps about to switch from NASCAR to Indy, apparently. So you’re probably right.

11

No competition really… The Stig will beat them all!

12

If you want beauty of machine, speed(in three dimentions) , beauty in local, then check into sailplane grand prix.

I’m glad to see FE get going. I love F1, and have followed it closely since 1962, but I’m not 1 sport limited, and besides, F1 is driven by change in and of technology. So,all things considered, I think we’re probably going to loose peteoleum based engines eventually anyway, so lets get ready for the future.

13

Racing without noise… It just isn’t sensational…

14

Check out the youtube footage. There is definitely noise. Some of it is annoying, but it sounds a bit like a jet fighter going past.

15

I don’t think the car looks too bad. I just wonder how they can have a race longer than 10 minutes or so before the battery is totally exhausted. Will they have a pitstop changing out a battery pack in 2.5 seconds?

16

No, they have multiple cars per driver, the driver gets into a new car at every pit stop, totally negating any farcical ideas that it is any way environmentally friendly racing.

17

No, each driver will have two cars as the race will be about 40 minutes, so when the battery goes low they pit in order to change the car.

18

I believe they plan on swapping cars, midway through… changing batteries is too complicated: they’re big, heavy and not all of them will be at one place in the car!

19

I think the combination of low power and spec cars will kill this series. They need to have double that power (or at least 500-600 ft-lbs of torque), and have some open rules so it’s not just a showcase of what McLaren and Dallara can do.

At least start off with open motor design, and perhaps a bit of open aero. Not much, but enough to make the cars look a little different.

20

The spec cars are just to get things off the ground, rather than expecting teams to all come up with their own cars straight off the bat.

The Formula E website states, “The FIA Formula E Championship is designed as an ‘open championship’, inspiring manufacturers and constructors to build their own fully-electric cars, subject to the technical specifications set out by the FIA.”

21

Yes, I understand that, but that’s why I said they should have some open parameters. Perhaps they could have started with open motor design; fabricate one from scratch, design for off-the-shelf components and assemble their own, or purchase a complete unit from a supplier. That would allow for an easy way into the championship and allow for some technical variety. Allowing a bit of open aero could make the cars look a little different, which would be nice.

I just see this going the same way as IndyCar. They said that they’ll have a common chassis, but aero and engine will be open. In the first year, they had a few engines, but spec aero with promises of open aero the next year. Then for costs, they kept the status quo for the next year. For 2014, I have heard nothing of open aero, and they are further restricting the engines to single turbo rather than allowing single or twin for some variety.

I just see Formula E putting off open regulations for too long, killing the series before it even gets momentum. This series NEEDS to make the cars the stars of the show. Drivers shouldn’t matter as much. As such, they need to boost power and increase variety as soon as practically possible.

22

Perhaps the power is limited by battery size. Next leap forward on battery technology will come in a few years. We may see higher power then?

23

Hi James and all,

I see that Renault have their name in the car name. I assume they paid for that, as your description has more work done by McLaren and Williams?

24

Yes, I would like to know that too. It’s strange. And not good PR for Renault.

25

Renault are technical partners, and are overseeing the project. The car is called the “Spark-Renault” to reflect that. It’s great PR for them and their electric car programme – and more coverage than they get on the side of the Red Bull F1 machines.

26

I like the design of the chasis. It’s still a viable open-wheeler design and I think they solved the problem of not looking too much like an F1 car well. A big improvement from the initial concept earlier this year. Much prefer those bigger wheels too, much better than the 13″ wheels F1 has borrowed off a Mini.

This series is full of happy stories, can’t wait to see it in action!

James, since this will effectively be in F1’s off season can we expect any cross polination of current drivers from F1? McLaren or Williams drivers maybe since they are heavily involved?

27

Also, not a big fan of the one size suits all weather conditions tyre. Reeks a bit of ‘we don’t want to be compared to F1 in terms of lap performance’. I think they should embrace the comparison, conceed that it’s a slower series initially but improve the technology year on year until F1’s persistence with old technology becomes embarrassing. Ten years of competitive development and this series could hopefully develop its technology to such a state that it could kill F1 in it’s current guise.

28

They’re thinking relevance to road cars though. You can go and buy a set of aesthetically identical Oz wheels and Michelin tyres tomorrow from Halfords and slap them on your Dacia (!). It should make fans feel much more closely connected to the sport.

29

Good question. Maybe 3rd drivers? I’ll ask

30

Maybe they could put Alonso, Hamilton, and Vettel all in, and settle the debate 😉

31

Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel – identical spec cars on street circuits? That would be worth paying a lot to see. In fact, bring back Schumacher and let’s do it properly.

32

Would give the series a marketing boost, raise it’s profile with the doubters also. Could also be seen as some pre-season training by F1 drivers?

33

Admittedly, I’m new to F1 and world-class racing – as opposed to the NASCAR racing we’re subjected to here in the states – but I think the car is actually attractive in this “conceptual” representation. And I’ll be following it as it’s a great step in raising awareness of the feasibility of electric vehicles.

But only 270 horses? Amazing. And possibly boring.

34

Have you seen the AMG SLS E-drive in action? Jeremy Clarkson was blown away by it on Top Gear. And the Formula E car will have better power to weight ratio than that. Boring and slow, the racing will not be!

35

Have you ever watched a F3 race?

36

I have not. Why do you ask?

37

Bingo Spyros. F3 cars are about 200 h.p. and weigh 550 kg. They put on a spectacular show and are very exciting to watch, mostly because the drivers are young and fearless and just learning their craft. For that matter, Formula Ford is also great.

38

I think he asked because F3 cars are pretty low on power, too… but a quick search on Youtube should demonstrate that they’re not lacking in spectacle.

39

Fantastic to hear! I love F1 racing but the damage it does to the environment goes against everything I am trying to do, so I hope this series meets with huge success! Love to see a series using Hydrogen Gas as the emission is water while the electricity supplied to charge these cars is likely to come from the local electrical grid which is more than likely supplied by a non eco-friendly power plant…good step in the right direction though! Definitely going to be watching next year! The design will no doubt change as the series goes on so I’m sure they will improve…Hoping the F1 manufacturers eventually climb on board and field teams themselves…

40

Maybe one day they will electrify the diesel trucks that will ferry the race cars around… don’t know about the huge cargo planes that will take them to faraway cities, though…

Only a teeny-tiny fraction of F1’s carbon footprint actually has to do with the fuel burnt by the racing cars. Formula E will be missing this tiny fraction, and to be fair the spec chassis probably involves a lot less aero work (and related energy bills for 60% windtunnels!) but otherwise it’s just as energy intensive as F1.

Good PR, though…

41

The whole electric thing isn’t just about saving a few emissions while they’re actually out on track. It promotes research and development in the technologies and promotes the idea of the electric car and moving towards more sustainable solutions in general. Would it be “greener” to just not race at all? In the short term, obviously yes. But in the longer term it will hopefully justify its existence with the development that goes on.

And maybe they’ll come up with battery technologies that’ll make their way into other industries, and I’ll have a phone that can make it through a whole day without recharging!

42

Actually, the DHL guys had some info on how they will try and “green” the logistics chain in getting Formula E around the world. I’m writing the piece at the moment; it will be up a bit later on at currente.wordpress.com

43

Why is it that, when designing a spec chassis, the designers don’t seem to consider aesthetics much? Chassis design and aero aren’t going to be the performance differentiators between teams and drivers, so why not make something that looks beatiful as well as fast?

They’re already handicapped with an electric motor which doesn’t seem to have much mass appeal, why still make an ugly car?

44

I don’t understand the “open championship” statement. From what I could find on the Formula E website there didn’t appear to be component competition.

The shrouds over the wheels are there presumably to reduce drag to allow 200 kW to have a reasonable top speed. The side pods look massive given the density of the batteries, so I suspect this has more of an aerodynamic influence and styling rather than physical space requirements. With high efficiency batteries and only 200 kW (or 180 on the Formula E site) the cooling demands are much less than demanded by the size of the side pods.

My feeling is that the cars are going to look slow, with the tyres being grip limited, the downforce to drag ratio low based on the “aerodynamically designed to encourage overtaking” statement. Keeping the car to street tracks sounds like a great idea to maintain the spectacle.

A problem for the series could be that it is unlikely to be desirable to rising junior drivers as many of the car characteristics will be very different to F3, GP2 FR3.5 etc. I imagine the tyre pressure and spring tuning would be reversed from what F1 does with its 13 inch wheels.

Hopefully the cars are cheap to run, and relatively cheap to buy, with the batteries not being the equivalent of a racing rather than road car engine in cost.

45

From the Formula E website:

“The FIA Formula E Championship is designed as an ‘open championship’, inspiring manufacturers and constructors to build their own fully-electric cars, subject to the technical specifications set out by the FIA.”

46

It’s timing, I think. This has all happened very fast, and giving a whole load of cars to the FIA for approval would have been tough. On the other hand, Bluebird officially launches its GTL racer this month, which is designed for Formula E. So we might see some progress.

47

I find exploring other forms of motor racing interesting. How would it click with the current generation of petrolheads remains to be seen. It would also be interesting how would racing of electric cars be seen by a generation that is going to grow up with them (assuming the electric cars become mainstream). I would give it a chance. Not sure how would different noise affect the perception of racing.

P.S. I am not impressed with the judgemental tone of some comments way before we had a chance to see the series in action.

48

Nothing to interest a motorsport fan in here but maybe if you like washing machines it could interest you. I think this series will flop, I can hear it coming…oh no I can’t!

49

Formula Ernie … He drove the fastest milk cart in he west 😀

50

LOL. Well, I certainly didn’t think anyone would be able to link energy efficient race cars, the world and surrounds of F1 and Benny Hill. There you go… 😀

51

Who cares what they look like, if the racing is good and it’s exciting then surely it’s worth watching??

52

Exactly right! I think a lot of people here are expecting it to be F1 junior and that’s not the case. It’s to showcase and develop electric car technology. It sounds like the cars aren’t very aero dependent, so the quality of racing may shock a lot of people. And complain about it being ugly all you want, but I’ve seen many F1 cars that were way worse than this.

53

James, do you know if Michelin will be using similar technology to their ‘hybrid’ intermediate tyres currently used on LMP1 cars in the WEC?

I’m disappointed to learn that it’s not starting until September 2014, I thought I’d be in LA for that race. Is a season going to run September through May? Sounds odd for a racing series

54

Potential for lots of wet races – even more exciting racing.

55

Sounds sensible to fill the gap left by F1 and other world series

56

Ah thanks 🙂 (that ? was supposed to be a !, apologies if it caused confusion)

57

Definitely a great idea? Do we know yet when the London race comes in the calendar?

58

Well, there’s a very good chance that I’ll be there!!

I volunteer with St John Ambulance and we cover most of the big events in London and there is no way that I’ll be missing this one!!!

(Plus I’m hoping to go to Uni in London from next September, so that works quite nicely too)

59

I believe it will be Round 1 in September

Possible venue – Olympic Park, but roads aren’t wide enough…

Other venues under discussion

60

Never thought of it that way! People would be more inclined to watch it since there’s nothing else on. Thanks!

61

That is one ugly car, it looks far worse than the test mule and promo pics. The fact that’s it’s a spec chassis when they have interest from multiple manufactureres (Blubird for instance) is abd thing as well.

62

Spec car for season one only, to keep costs down. Lower costs should tempt more teams. The Bluebird concept looks stunning – wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan’s ZEOD Le Mans racer headed in the Formula E direction too.

63

So they say, but we’ll see if it gets taken up.

I would be surprised if Nissan changed direction, the ZEOD is thought of as a stepping stone to another attack on overall victory at Le Mans, and beating Audi, Toyota and Porsche there would gain them far more publicity and drive their electric development harder.

64

So JamesAllenOnF? Or JamesAllenOnF1andFE? I do hope there is coverage of it in this great website!

65

The power unit may only provide 270 BHP, but any rough idea on what kind of torque it will be able to produce? Of course electric power provides a relatively high amount of torque (compared to a combustion engine). Given that the aim is for minimal tyre usage and that it is torque which causes wheel-spin and therefore the main cause of rear-tyre degradation, I wonder if Michelin will be forced to create ‘rock-hard’ tyres if the torque is indeed high. Especially given the inevitable tight corners, and thus ubiquitous traction zones, of street circuits.

66

James, do you know who has the TV rights?

67

Fox has them in many territories. Production company entrusted with the coverage is led by an ex FOM TV guy called West Gillett, who knows his stuff

68

I think this is an awesome initiative and hope and expect it to succeed, though maybe they could have got McLaren to do the aero work too and make something cool – looks like the front wing is designed for a bit of bump & ram, might be fun? is this what is meant by “designed aerodynamically to encourage overtaking” ?

We need this technology on our city streets, to get off the oil addiction we’ve been given (yes ok, they fly the gear round in planes but this is a good promo for the technology. . ) I wonder though how it will work as an open series – will one team turn up one day and be 5 seconds a lap quicker, or make a system that lasts the whole race while others have to pit or change car? A public learning curve would not be a good look – interesting how it can be regulated – any insight James?

Thanks for covering this story.

69

I can only imagine they’ve limited the turbulent air flow by reducing downforce. So cars can run nose to tail without losing a massive amount of grip. It may be massively slower than F1 but if there’s actual driver skill based overtakes it could eventually be more fun to watch than F1. Not that I think racing has to be about constant overtaking but a bit more emphasis on the late breakers and risk takers than the skill of Adrian newey to come up with ever cleverer ways to blow hot air downwards might be addictive!

70

The cars rely on ground effect, so turbulent air flow from the car in front is less of a problem.

It will be interesting to see how the car swap will be used, depending on whether drivers have to swap after a predetermined number of laps, or if they can swap at their own choice – presumably with equal cars, but assuming that power consumption is an issue, the optimum race time would dictate that all cars stop about midway through the race, but if battery capacity clearly exceeds requirement, it could get very interesting.

Still, to promote electric cars, they need to get rid of this “only good for half the distance” as soon as possible, and introduce tyre changes.

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