Is Formula E about to take off? Nissan enters series as governments get tough on emissions
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Oct 2017   |  10:15 am GMT  |  181 comments

A lot is happening quickly in the world of Formula E, with news that Nissan is to replace its sister brand Renault as an entrant in the zero emissions racing series.

At the same time we are seeing the mayors of many of Europe’s leading cities uniting to get tough on petrol and diesel cars. London has this week introduced a T Zone (T for Toxicity) with heavy tariffs on diesel cars entering the centre and a pledge to ban diesel and petrol cars altogether in the next few years.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan argues that pollutants from vehicles are collectively estimated to cause around 9,400 equivalent deaths every year in Greater London and impose an economic cost between £1.4bn and £3.7bn a year.

Berlin, Paris, Los Angeles and many other cities are also getting tough in what feels like a tipping point for the electric vehicle.

For Formula E it feels like everything is finally coming towards it; the new battery that will last an entire race is due to come on stream in Season V (Autumn 2018) and many of the leading manufacturers are piling in now, with Jaguar, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes and Nissan all committed to Season V.

With that will come investment, promotion and the tide will rise taking the series up. Thus far it has garnered admirers and has done quite well on the business to business angle, which is an important part of professional motorsport series today. But it has struggled to attract fans and arouse passions.

But that could change if the series becomes more high profile and attracts bigger name drivers.

All of this will not go unnoticed with Liberty Media and Formula 1, which is due to unveil its proposals for the new engine formula post 2021 next week. We will post on that separately

However there are threats too.

As the series matures and the manufacturers come in there is a risk that, if tight rein is not kept on the regulation of the series, they will escalate an arms race, as we saw in F1 in the mid 2000s, which would spoil it.

Even at the recent Formula E pre-season test there was evidence of Audi and Porsche starting to flex their muscles and there are rumours of the German manufacturers starting to get together to vote tactically on the regulations in the future. The Formula E organisers and the FIA will have to stay very much on top of that.

The test showed that the pecking order going into this next season appears to be Audi then Renault and Mahindra, who have done a superb job to get to that level, then Virgin, Techeetah, NextEv then Jaguar, Dragon and Venturi.

Nissan replaces Renault for Season V

At the end of the coming Season IV Renault will exit and its sister brand Nissan will enter, becoming the first Japanese OEM to race in Formula E. Nissan has been a pioneer in roadgoing EVS with the Leaf being one of the first EVs on the market.

“As a pioneer in EV, we have learned a tremendous amount about high-performance electric vehicles and energy management that directly benefits our EV customers. After Season 4 we will focus resources on our aggressive goals for Formula 1 and we look forward to continuing to gain benefits from motorsport racing across the Alliance with Nissan, ” said Renaut’s Thierry Koskas.

Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag welcomed the latest new manufacturer into his series: “Japan is a country at the forefront of new technologies with one of the biggest followings of Formula E. The shift towards sustainable mobility is in motion and it’s unstoppable. I look forward to seeing the Nissan logo adorned on the new-look cars for season five.”

What do you make of this latest development? Is Formula E getting on your radar now? Leave your comments in the section below

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I have nothing but contempt for Sadiq Khan, a bureaucrat of the high order. Nonsense like “pollutants from vehicles.. impose an economic cost between £1.4bn and £3.7bn a year” is just, well, nonsense. I would love to see the cost if we had zero polluting vehicles on London roads, because the city would literally stop functioning overnight.


The thing I find hard to understand on his approach is that he shuts down Uber with their Prius hybrids and then supports black cabs that spew out diesel fumes all day long with their engines running while they wait at stations.. how is that improving London’s air quality?


Were Uber providing their own vehicles?

I got the impression that it was normal drivers, including minicab drivers from my local office, responding to jobs through the Uber app.

The Uber shutdown is related to regulations that public-usage services are subject to, that the company reportedly routinely ignores in every territory that it goes into. Nothing to do with hybrid vs diesel.

I use Black cabs a fair bit, with my office close to one of their main stations, and a) they don’t keep their engines running whilst waiting; b) they seem to be going the hybrid route themselves:


Is Nissan really a new brand entering, or is this just a rebranding, with the team taking over the technology developed by Renault?


I would say it’s very much the latter.


Its not a true development war though… its a standardised battery pack.

If you want to do this series for the benefit of road car tech then that needs to change.


Hi James, nice article…Do you have any knowledge regarding driver salieries in Formula E? Where would they rank in terms of financial attractiveness for drivers, vs (for example) BTCC, WEC and Indycar?


I don’t but it’s a good question


It it makes one feel good than E racing is fine for a few. But don’t confuse this with actually reducing emissions. The combined emissions from the logistics and support vehicles dwarf those of the race cars


Ironic that the objections to the London race in Battersea Park was the smell and pollution from the diesel powered generators that sustain the event. Can understand the locals not wanting another helping


FE is certainly the series for “road relevance” and so you get to see manufacturers performing r&d in the public eye largely subsidised by the taxpayer, and only in it because their competitors are. It’s a shareholder thing. As a “motor” sports spectacle it is mildly interesting but no more. Even with free admission they could barely get the spectator numbers into 4 figures in London. There probably IS a niche for FE but they just haven’t found it yet.


Formula E is an exciting new formula promoting the technologies that will propel most all of us into the future. The synergies between the race teams and the cutting edge of industrial R&D is amazing and will accelerate the rise of electronic vehicle on the road (and off). It’s thrilling that road-racing is the format being used for this purpose.


3 reasons I cant watch FE (yet), not in order…

1. Tracks are awful
2. Speed is touring car at best, not great for single-seaters (yes I’m exaggerating a bit)
3. Changing cars mid race

Sort those 3 out and you’ve got my interest. Noise – I don’t really care about.

Personally I think FE and F1 should be partnered. FE inner city, manufacturer friendly – help push dev of electrical storage, power, coding etc. F1 should be an open formula, run v6,8,10,12 whatever BUT there’s limitations around safety and cost.

FE and F1 races over the same weekend. F1 at Silverstone, FE in central London for example. Manufacturers championships in both, drivers championships in both.

A radical idea I know… never going to happen I know. Would tick a lot of boxes for shareholders and manufacturers though.


I know and accept hybrids and EVs will eventually be a common thingm ie, “The Future…’

I just cannot yet get excited about a racing series were the cars go “WHEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” like my old R/C cars as a kid….

Still, maybe if BMW climbs into the sport i may change my mind…that i8 may be a hybrid but my goodness is it sexy!


This is an interesting series and one that F1 needs to take a look at. If only for the simple reason that the racing is so awful on those temporary tracks, lined with concrete and fencing. If F1 is looking to gain more city based tracks it will be a series of poor races that don’t allow a race car to do what it’s so excellent at. Think Spa, Silverstone, Monza and every other real race track and then compare to a temp track they race on. No contest really.


All the people that are criticizng FE are using all the wrong reasons and logic. If we quickly run through these silly reasons:
1) The cars sound bad/quiet: Out of all the reasons this must be the most pointless one.
2) The cars are slow: They might be slow but in the near future they will go as fast a F1 car (topspeed) because technology is getting there. The future is electric. Besides, electric cars have better acceleration then petrol cars. That is a fact.
3) The batteries don’t last long: They will. Eventually.
4) Tracks are bad: FE cars are not fast enough to race in race tracks but when they go up in speed, I’m sure they will do that.

Is there any legit reason for FE being a bad series? At least in the next 5-10 years?


but in the near future they will go as fast a F1 car

Define near future please. Batteries and electric motors have both been around for longer than the ICE and petrol. I’m not sure why you (and others) have such confidence that some fantastic discovery is waiting just tantalisingly round the corner. What if this is it?


Yes, they are all legitimate reasons. Motor racing is an audio as well as visual experience, so sound is important. The next 3 have in fact the same cause, battery technology doesn’t allow for high speed over a race distance. Batteries don’t last long, that’s a fact. The extremely short battery life is the reason for the slow speed tracks, a 5 or 6 lap race at Spa is going to capture an audience.

It may be another inconvenient truth, but the calculations show at the current rate of battery technology development it will take somewhere between 150 and 180 years to develop a battery that will last as long as the same weight of petrol.

It’s a bad series now and still will be for a long time after we, our kids and our grandkids are pushing up daisies.


That picture with the article banner, Formula E cars on a road with LOCAL SCENERY; I’d watch that, instead of the same-every-location, sterile, Death Star trench that makes everywhere look the same.

Not sure how long the whiny engines would keep me watching though.


The biggest single problem with FE is they can’t make the the racing entertaining because the tracks have to be designed so as not to flatten the batteries. So that means short straights, low speed corners, no flowing high speed curves and absolutely no hills, ever. The cars have to spend as little time accelerating and as much time braking so the battery can at least last a few kilometres. Rough calculations indicate 5 laps at Spa and the batteries would be flat.

FE cars and fast, high speed, flowing tracks are simply not compatible right now and won’t be for at least another 150 years based on the current rates of battery and generative development.


TBH…I couldn’t be less interested. Electric motors running off a big battery holds no interest for me. Engineering sophistication and intricate machines are my bag. I compare these machines to a watchmaking exercise. What would you prefer…A Patek Philippe skeleton ‘tourbillon’ or a plastic cased, digital chipped battery run display unit? I know my predilection. Not only does the prospect fail to ignite any passion i also fear that if it grows too much then what will all those great engineers currently employed in F1 do for a living? The same question applies when the examining the flow on effects of centrally imposed Budget Caps. No, I’m afraid that FE is not for me. I’ve tried it and i didn’t like it. An exercise in soundless and soulless pretend car racing.


I think any arms race in FE is going to be far more useful to Joe Motorist than the equivalent in F1… so would it be such a bad thing?

Also I keep hearing that Porsche is entering F1 after 2021 alongside their FE program. I wonder why they would consider that?


Renault switching to Nissan is a “meh” for me….it’s like saying Cadillac will race at Lemans instead of Chevy. Same difference.

I’m more interested to see how the series progresses once the other big manufacturers join in. I’m not interested in watching Porsche and Audi, or any other VAG member, hold hands in the boardroom and “compete” on track – if anything, they need to introduce a rule something along the lines of “1 team per parent company”, or something like that.

Otherwise, it’s a decent series. I’ve watched it since season 1…but I watch pretty much everything, so not sure if that counts for anything . Has its pros and cons for sure, but overall I get enjoyment from watching it.

Fan boost needs to go away asap, and the circuits need big improvement. Once the single car format comes into play in 2 seasons, it’ll be pretty legit. The cars seem tough to drive, overtaking is tough, unassisted, and difficult as it should be; yet still prevalent. Strategy plays a big role, the tech differences between the cars are macro (eg some cars use a 2 speed trans, others a 3 speed, and I think there was a 4 speed too?), and the drivers seem to make a very significant difference.

Some of the street circuits are ok, but I’d love to see the organizers venture out a little bit, and explore some of the gem circuits out there that are inaccessible to F1. Brands Hafch, Leguna Seca, Lime Rock, Salzbergring…the bullrings of the racing world.


Just wait till the batteries become competitive with petroleum.
Just wait till governments quit subsidizing the purchase price.


I’m old and I don’t like anything new!
Bring back V10’s and the loud noise they made! What did you say? I can’t hear you…
Get off my lawn you darned kids!


The real tipping point will be when the major car markets in Europe and Asia (and possibly Canada) start banning petrol only engines. At that point it will be too expensive to build both petrol and electric drive cars and so they will focus on the electric drive. Once Europe and Asia has done all the heavy lifting on terms of development of electric cars, the American car market will reluctantly come on board. Finally, Africa, Central, and South America will bring up the rear.

The real problem is not the Technology. It is simply that petrol engines are extremely simple, cheap and convenient to design, market and support right now, while all the alternatives are too complicated for the average car owner. We consumers (particularly the Americans) are by nature “selfish” – we do not like to pay “extra” for anything (except when we supersize our fast food order).


I see a lot of negative comments over Formula E. I too came to the sport at first not being impressed, but I’ve gotten to really like it for several reasons.

1. I like how the drivers have to manage the energy of the batteries. During one race Dario Franchitti did a segment on the little tricks they use and I think it was rather interesting how much responsibility the driver has over the energy usage. No staff of engineers in the pits tweaking the engine.

2. I like that the tires aren’t so damn critical to everything. F1 has become so wrapped up in how long each compound lasts and how there is a mandatory compound switch, etc.

3. And finally, the racing is more fun. Drivers are trying some wild passing moves and a bit of bumping is allowed without all the F1 histrionics.

I do agree with everyone who has posted here about the tracks. Formula E really needs to make them seem less arcade-like.


I have not seen a Formula E race but the concept I think will take. It will obviously change over time. With countries around the world putting what is effectively a use by date on mass produced fossil fuel cars, an alternate form of racing will take hold. Also it appears that electric vehicles are at much cleaner over their life span than diesel cars.


Nope, still doesn’t do anything for me!
But of course there’s coming more manufacturers to FE, they’ve got to be seen to be doing the right thing…good for the image I suppose.
Good or bad, it doesn’t interest me one little bit.

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F-e is a pinpoint in the sky that’s slowly getting brighter, the dinosaurs haven’t paid it too much attention yet but it’ll be their undoing faster than they think; unless they start planning now. Regardless of folk moaning that it doesn’t ‘sound good’, or trying to find reasons to argue that electric vehicles aren’t actually less polluting, the die is cast and the motor industry is about to undergo a massive metamorphosis over the next couple of decades. F1 has a choice to either remain relevant by heading in the same direction, embracing, even leading these new technologies, or it can retreat into a backwater of obselescent irrelevance. The next set of engine rules may be the deciding factor of which route F1 goes down . People may not like it but change is a coming and if F1 doesn’t take the lead then F-e will. Realistically I can envisage the two converging in maybe a decade or so’s time, perhaps leading to a merger, or the death of one.


So Nissan are entering Formula E…

Interesting how the “green marketing” obsession of big manufacturers is altering motorsports, often for the worse in my opinion as with the F1 PUs.

Read a good article on BBC about a guy that went ahead and got emissions tests done on his old petrol 1990s golf v his dads 2009 diesel skoda that also provided data on new cars including the Nissan Qashqai (or Quashquai or whatever)… fuel economy/CO2/NOx toxicity/lab testing vs real world testing etc…

This Nissan overtook the Ford Fiesta to become the most registered car in the UK (still don’t get the obsession with SUV/MPV high centre of gravity ‘cars’) and it came in on the nitrogen oxides scale as 1.46g of NOx per km which is over 18x the Euro 0.08g/km limit… the old Golf came in at 0.68 and the Diesel Skoda at 0.26 g/km.

Five old Skoda diesels produce less NOx than the new Nissan Q tested…

Marketing eh…

Wonder if one manufacturer will throw tons of money at Formula E and dominate, or is being on the start list and using it for marketing enough?
Pity being green in F1 didn’t just mean calendar tweaks and using less jumbos to fly the stuff about etc.

Article link if interested…

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