On the 17thof January this year, submissions closed for expressions of interest in the FIA’s proposed Formula E Series – beginning in 2014. The motor racing series, designed specifically for electric cars, was born out of Jean Todt’s frustration with Formula One’s willingness to embrace green technologies. And for good reason; given the image problem related to the excitement generated (or lack thereof) by renewable energy and racing.
The Formula E series backers believe they can solve this problem and Formulec – who have developed a prototype for the series – has constructed a two-gear, lithium-powered car that ways no more than 780kgs, a far cry from the lumbering battery-encumbered hybrids currently on our roads. Beyond this, the FIA has asked those wishing to submit an entry that adheres to an electric motor, electric generator, rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) and a traction battery for intermediate storage of electricity.
The brief by the FIA hopes to attract the automotive market, renewable energy technologies and companies who design original equipment, but mainly to attract wide public interest, from non‐traditional motor sport targets, – in particular focusing on young urban audiences. In reference to this, the Formula E series plans to hold races by using the centre of major cities and avoiding the use of long straights.
At present, other people behind the project include Lord Drayson (who’s own Drayson Racing Technologies pioneer green racing) and Alejandro Agag, whose investment company, Addax currently runs teams in GP2 and GP3.
So with the formula and the investment in place, everything appears set for a successful new incarnation of motor racing that should ensure the sport’s viability for the foreseeable future. But looking forwards it may be worth casting a glance to the past to ensure the series has every opportunity to succeed. Presently, most of the leading designers, engineers (and fans) of Formula One bemoan the lack of room for ingenuity under the current regulations and brilliant designers such as Adrian Newey have even expressed a desire to move to other sports (such as the America’s Cup) to ply their trade.
But what if these technical leading lights could be persuaded to stay in the sport and exorcise their frustrations in a category such as Formula E? Former revolutionary Brabham and McLaren Formula 1 designer, Gordon Murray has long left the sport and has since concentrated much of his efforts designing energy-efficient road prototypes such as the T.27. Murray’s design studio has 32 employees and raised in excess of $50 million in investment, so he knows the industry well. If the Murrays and the Neweys could be coaxed to enter the electric formula we could witness a renaissance in the technical evolution of the sport not seen since the 1970’s.
And it’s not just the old hands who could prove to be evolutionary geniuses. Formula Student championships have been eeking out young engineering talent for years and are in some respects ahead of the game compared to their petrol-influenced counterparts.
Given the rudimentary stage of Formula E’s regulations, the opportunity for engineers and designers to push the boundaries of what is the perceived norm of what green racing is. In fact, the FIA should be making a point of relaxing the regulations in the first few years of competition to allow talent and green racing to flourish. This is what will attract the fans and accelerate the public’s desire for energy-efficient automobiles.
Only then will motorsport no longer need to justify its existence, but will instead be championed for it.