The next generation of racing moves closer: Formula E car tests for first time
Innovation
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Nov 2013   |  3:52 pm GMT  |  113 comments

We have been following the progress of the Formula E series since it was first announced in April 2011 and the temperature has been rising lately on the FIA’s new world series, which is due to start in September 2014. Last week saw the publication of a report by Ernst & Young into the impact the series is set to have on global car market trends, then the Abt Audi team was confirmed as an entrant and today they announced that the prototype car has tested for the first time.

Formula E is a new series of zero emissions racing, with cars running entirely on electricity from batteries.

The car tested at the La Ferté Gaucher circuit near Choisy-le-Roi, France with ex Virgin Racing F1 driver Lucas di Grassi at the wheel. The car completed 40 laps over two days as engineers carried out system checks. For the test, the car was fitted with a 50kw battery which is a quarter of the maximum 200kw power (270bhp) the final car will produce.

McLaren is involved in making the motors for the series and Williams is working on the battery technology.


Frédéric Vasseur of Spark Racing which makes the car, said: “Everything went very well and it was a very positive maiden run for the Spark-Renault SRT_01E. The car ran for around 40 laps with no issues straight out of the box, which looks good for the overall reliability. We were also running with a much smaller battery than we will use – just 25% of the full power – which again gives us confidence going forward. The next test is planned for the coming weeks where we want to increase the mileage on the car, working our way up to a full race simulation.”

Meanwhile the CEO and leading light behind the Formula E series, Alejandro Agag said, “The first test was a historic moment for the championship and we’re delighted with how it has gone. We think teams, drivers and fans will love the way it looks and sounds. Now Frédéric and his team, together with Lucas, will begin to put mileage on the car, focusing on durability. It’s a very exciting development and we can’t wait for that first race in Beijing in September 2014 to see all 20 cars lined-up on the grid.”

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1

Will this be shown on terestrial tv or will it be on Sky Sports?

2

That’s not known yet

3

What happened to the Video clip? It was fascinating but, wanting to see it again (27 Nov) it’s “been removed by the user”…. James?

4

Not me. No idea.

Will take a look

5

Not that im suggesting impropriety, but why when I asked about the environmental credos of this series, is the comment removed? I did not swear, defame, insult anyone, just asked about why this electricity is being used to power cars, when the electricity itself is generated by coal?

Seemed quite a resonable observation/question

6

It sounds like my vacuum cleaner.

7

Fan boost … Winners effectively chosen by a Eurovision style phone vote, can’t see that getting rigged to manipulate the series 😀

8

Like 80% of the sound heard in this video is actually the gearbox not the motor.

And there are videos out there of this thing in use on a street course at more power.

It was all gearbox squeals in slower stuff and tyres on the fast bits. But less tyre squealing than you think. If they are gripping its a rubbing sound if they are sliding its a squeal type sound.

9

I still don’t see where the money is going to come from to make this series work.

Single day events on street circuits are going to be hugely expensive.

Two cars per driver.

Looking at the calendar they will have to air freight quite a bit between rounds.

The only way it works is if manufacturers really start to subsidise it, but that would take a lot of money away from other motorsport. Would Audi run less cars in DTM or reduce GT3 support to fund this? I hope not. Are Renault/Nissan going to do this instead of a return to Le Mans in 2015?

If this was a test bed for a new quantum leap in battery technology then that would be different but its not. Meanwhile F1 and LMP1 are really starting to push hybrid development.

I used to think that this was just a marketing exercise that would fade away, but now I actually worry that it might happen and affect budgets elsewhere.

10

My prediction is that it won’t have too much of an effect on F1 in the short term – in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of the recent money flowing into F1 has come from countries like the UAE, Bahrain, Singapore, Malaysia, Venezuela, Russia, etc.

One thing they all have in common, apart from stellar human rights records, is wealth that is wholly or partly founded on fossil fuels, so they are not suddenly going to pull out of F1 and sponsor an electric car series. Likewise, car sales are still hugely dominated by internal combustion engines, and of course, the most famous drivers in the world all drive F1 cars.

11

Sounds like my RC car. Find it neither appealing or fascinating. Racing is about high hp, and monstrous noise. This is neither. Beyond that the environmental damage done by producing the batteries is far worse than the carbon emissions caused by fossil fuel driven engines, with out even taking in account their disposal as well. Hydrogen would be a much better alternative.

12

Strange, I thought racing was about getting to see the checkered flag first.

13
Tom Haythornthwaite

I love the sound of F1 engines but I can embrace FE too.

James, please explain why the FE cars will have gears.

I’m also surprised there was choreography with a camera car on the ‘first test’. Sign of the times, I suppose. Still, it didn’t seem as choreographed as di Grassi’s ‘spontaneous’ remarks.

14

The whole thing has been finely calculated for maximum marketing effect at every step of the way so far. Bernie, eat your heart out.

15

I see no problem with the noise… its an electric car…what do people expect? Your hearing the gearbox I would guess. I think its very cool, if you expect it to sound like F1 or any other internal combustion car…..oh wait that’s right…its electric! Some of the comments here make you shake your head. Fantastic idea in my view, and I think the car is no worse looking than the current generation F1 cars. We are all use to them now and they were odd looking at first.

16
Thomas in Adelaide

Should be investing money into viable Hydrogen power units – electric cars = greenwashing at its finest.

17

Adrian will be allowed to design a car for this series?

😉

18

Wouldn’t do him any good – no aero development allowed!

19

I just hope this isnt where F1 ends up.

It getting bad enough as is with kers and drs.

20

I thought that if you fitted a battary with quarter the capacity, then it would go flat in quarter the time if it was being discharged at the same rate as the bigger battary. Of course if you wanted to make it last as long as the bigger battary you would discharge it at quarter the rate, (thereby having quarter the power). OK, that must have been what they were doing.

I quite liked the sound and was surprised to hear the driver change gears.

PK.

21

I’m excited for this new Formula E. Living in downtown Miami I can’t wait to watch a race.

22

Nice blog JA, I enjoy reading it since quite some time but this is my first post…

Something seems strange with the statement about the battery size and how this should affect the power.

Battery rating is energy (= kWh) and motor rating is power (= kW).

If they have a “smaller” battery, with only 25% of the final capacity, this doesn’t necessarily lower the “system power” if the voltage of the battery remains the same! Only runtime will be a lot shorter (e.g. around 25%).

Anyhow, small thing most likely not stated right…

I’m sure they’ll figure the technology out before the season will start by end of 2014 as there is still a lot of time and there are companies with knowledge supporting the series!

23

A number of articles got this wrong. According to Formula E’s video, the car was running 1/4 motor power – 50 Kilowatts. They had a small test pack in rated at 8 KiloWatthours. The pack is around 1/4 of the size pack they plan to race with which is 30 KW-hours.

24

Good point. It seems they were running at lower power outputs too. The battery used was 8kWh, whereas the final product will be around 30kWh. Total available power will be 200kW, but apparently the car was running at 50kW on test.

25

+1

Battery size has nothing to do with the power the motor puts out. Just how long it can go for.

26

Lucas mentions the gearbox. Why does it need a gearbox when you have 100% torque delivery instantly at any revs?

27

Im not an engineer by any means, I’m just your average couch potato who likes to watch fast cars go round and round and occasionally have a crash or two… I would hazard a guess and say that even with 100% torque available all the time at any revolution of the motor, having a gearbox would be used as a torque multiplier, just as it is in any other conventional car (there has to be a benefit otherwise it wouldn’t be in the car). Im wondering, does the car, or will the car have KERS? Makes sense to me to recover some of that lost energy during braking in the form of more electricities… Great blog JA, excellent read.

28

Spot on.

The cars will have regenerative braking apparently and a “push to pass” system that will derestrict them for short periods (total 200kW power but cars will run at 133kW for majority of race).

29

Any news if any major tv networks will show the series?

I guess this will affect if the series becomes really successful eg tv will attract major brands etc

30

Yes Fox has it for most markets (not UK)

That was announced a few months ago

31

You’ve got to take your hat off to the FIA. They’re certainly making a considerable effort to address automobile sustainability into the distant future. Very much looking forward to the races next year.

32

Well, I’m ignoring the complaints about the noise and I’m just looking forward to the racing.

As long as the cars can follow close, and do some do or die maneuvers on the streets of the capital cities of the world … I’ll be very happy.

I’m not entirely sure about the look of the cars, though I like the 15″ rims. It’ll be interesting to see if F1 moves to those soon.

Who knows, they might even not have a run-away winner 🙂

33

I note the low profile tyres… Michelin has wanted them for F1 for ages… I wonder if it is that fact, or low weight that made them choose low profile?

It looks like scalelectric has finally arived, that sound reminded me of my scaletric track!

34

what do you mean by low profile tyres? some other comments also mentioned it.

what is it?

35

The diameter of the wheel is larger making the tyre thinner (when viewed from the side).

In F1 this would massively affect suspension as most of an F1 car’s suspension travel comes from deflection in the tyre. If F1 used low profile tyres the mechanical suspension would need to compensate.

36

Yes, F1 should move to LP tires. These cars look great. Let’s hope that some of the design flair makes the transition to F1.

37

Yeah like the front wing to, better then the multi element mess on today’s f1

38

Where do you put the milk and eggs?

39

The sound reminds me of Star Wars – a bit higher pitched than my liking, but good enough.

Tesla Model S P85+ road car has an 85kw battery with 416-hp/443-lb-ft induction AC electric motor. Not so clear about why the final FE car would have 200kw power (270bhp)

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk believes in an electric car dominated future – like the ICE (internal combustion engine) car dominated present. The idea of F1 & FE convergence in the article is an intriguing one.

As an EV owner, I’m rooting for its future with my heart and my money. Putting the environment aside, it’s a better platform for motor vehicle – 100% torque at 0 rpm or any other rpm. No ICE has that. With the space saved from not having all that ICE related supporting parts, it can be much safer too.

Look forward to the Beijing race. Am thinking about if I should go 🙂

40

You are partly confusing battery capacity (Wh) with power (W). More importantly, in racing, and street racing in particular, it is not so much about total power as it is about power to weight ratio, as that determines the acceleration. A Formula E car weighs about a third of a Tesla Model S, so its power to weight ratio is about two times higher.

41

On the power to weight thread, there are some comparisons here which helps put the Formula E car’s seemingly insipid powertrain in context:

http://currente.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/recalibrating-the-power-to-weight-context-for-formula-e/

42

Thanks, that’s a good post. It is also worth remembering that aerodynamics are very important. If it wasn’t for minimum weight limits, F1 (or indeed FE) car could quite easily achieve even higher power to weight ratios by dropping some of their aero parts, but while that may indeed improve acceleration or top speed, it would result in slower lap times.

It’s easy to build more powerful electric motors, so the limiting factor of electric car performance, right now, is the battery. I am quite sure that one could already build an electric prototype that could deliver a faster one-lap time than a current F1 car, simply by virtue of superior acceleration out of slow corners. Even more so if the F1 car loses its electric motor, and even though the current aerodynamic rules are tailor-made for internal combustion engines, including coandă exhausts etc that simply don’t have an electric equivalent. At the current development pace of combustion engines and batteries, it can only be a matter of time when electric cars out-race petrol-fuelled ones.

43

James, are you intending to give Formula E full coverage in your blog, or to refer to it occasionally?.

44

I hope to

45

Any British TV/ Radio Stations interested in Formula E , James?

47

Do it mate, give this series every chance to succeed.

48

I hope the battery technology learned from this series be transformed to normal road cars quickly.

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