Formula E hits the road (quietly)
Rome will be the first European city to host the FIA Formula E Championship in 2014. The Italian capital becomes the second city in the world to welcome the FIA Formula E Championship following Rio de Janeiro’s announcement in August last year that it would host the first Formula E race. In total, the 2014 inaugural Championship will feature 10 urban races. FEH has already received interest from a large number of cities to host the ‘E-Prix’.
Jean Todt, FIA President, said in a press conference in December: “The contrast between this innovative motorsport series and the rich ancient history of Rome is one I am sure the public and the media will be intrigued and enriched by.” Formula E Holdings has signed an agreement with the FIA to promote the new Formula E Championship featuring Formula cars powered exclusively by electric energy. Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings said: “Clean urban mobility and sustainability are a priority for our Championship, and Formula E wants to become a showcase for these advances through an entertaining and all-inclusive spectacle. We are thankful to the Rome City Mayor and authorities for their enthusiastic welcome and support.”
In late 2012 FEH announced the purchase of 42 Formula E cars from the newly-formed company, Spark Racing Technology (SRT). The cars will be used in the Formula E Championship inaugural race in 2014. SRT, led by Frédéric Vasseur, had announced that it had reached an agreement with McLaren Electronic Systems to design and construct the powertrain for the first Formula E car. Commenting on the purchase, Agag said: “The high caliber of the respective manufacturers, SRT and McLaren Electronic Systems, has great relevance for our Championship and also shows their commitment to innovation, excellence and technology.”
Formula E has declared itself as an ‘open’ championship. It has been working to encourage other car designers and constructors to build a Formula E car. The FIA technical regulations, to be published soon for the championship, will set the framework for making such submissions possible. Agag added: “We, as the promoter, are focusing our efforts to ensure racing venues will demonstrate the potential of Formula E cars to spectators. Formula E wants to show that electric cars are fast, reliable and safe.
Our mission is to establish electric cars as a real option for people’s daily lives, one that will make our cities cleaner and more liveable.” FEH plans to make four cars available to each of the 10 teams. In addition, one will be used as the official test car and a second one for the FIA crash tests. Should a team build and develop its own car, the remaining Spark Cars will be used for roadshows and other racing activities. The team led by Frédéric Vasseur built the French-designed Formulec car, the first electric Formula car to be built. FEH acquired the Formulec tech¬nology and integrated the team into the FEH structure, showing its commitment to cutting edge electronic technology. As the first electric Formula racing car us¬ing high performance lithium batteries, the experience with the Formulec prototype will serve as a basis for the new Spark cars and for other potential interested constructors. Vas¬seur worked with Eric Barbaroux (FEH Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Formulec) and Pierre Gosselin (FEH CEO Special Advisor and co-founder of Formulec) in the team that developed the Formulec EF01 prototype electric racing car in 2008.
Also be¬hind the project is amateur racing driver Lord Drayson, a former UK science minister, and whose business Drayson Racing Technologies, is a pioneer of green racing.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Agag what impact he sees Formula E racing having on the racing world.
Agag: First and foremost we want to create exciting and competitive racing with real competition between cars and drivers, where the best technology and the best pilot will win. We want to create a show for all ages, focusing on the younger generations and families, and appealing to a new type of motorsport fan.
AI: How do you see the sport impacting the popularity of electric vehicles?
Agag: We want people to believe in electric cars. One of the biggest problems EVs face is image. Many people think electric vehicles won’t work for them or will be too slow. People don’t know the truth and we want to show everyone what electric cars can really do. Motorsport also needs to be much more relevant to the challenges currently facing the car industry. It needs to lead this and to help shape perceptions of what is cool and exciting.
AI: What kind of impact do you see Formula E having on research and development?
Agag: We want Formula E to become a framework for R&D and to accelerate the early adoption of this technology into everyday electric vehicles. Battery life and efficiency of electric engines are two fields in which many global corporations are investing vast resources. Technological breakthroughs in these fields will take the electric car to a different level. We would like to become the testing ground for those advances.
AI: Tell us about the other cities apart from Rio de Janeiro and Rome which have shown interest in hosting the race.
Agag: The overall response from cities across the world has been overwhelming. Since launching in August 2012, we’ve received formal interest from 23 cities across five continents. In 2014 we intend to host 10 races. We recently announced eight of the cities on the preliminary calendar with those being London, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Putrajaya and Buenos Aires alongside Rome and Rio de Janeiro, with two to be announced. The final calendar will be presented to the FIA for its approval at the September 2013 World Motor Sport Council.
AI: Why have these cities chosen to be venues for the Formula E championship?
Agag: The reasoning varies from city to city. In the case of Los Angeles, for example, where we recently staged a launch event, we were very impressed with their burgeoning electric vehicle infrastructure and the work being done by the mayor and the Los Angeles Department for Water and Power. To date they have installed 121 public electric vehicle charging stations, streamlined the permitting process necessary to upgrade electrical panels in homes and businesses, and issued rebates for in-home electric charger equipment and installation fees…and in a city they call the car capital of the world!
AI: Tell us a little about the cars that will be taking part in the Formula E 2014.
Agag: The Formula E cars will be single seaters with amazing acceleration, capable of speeds of more than 220kph and 0-100kph in under three seconds the only difference is that they will be powered solely by electric energy. The cars are being built by Spark Racing Technology (SRT), headed by Frédéric Vasseur, using a chassis from Dallara and a powertrain designed and built by McLaren with Michelin providing the tyres. People also often ask about the sound they will make. This will be new and futuristic and is one of Formula E’s key features.
AI: Why did the FIA decide to keep the championship ‘open’ in terms of the cars being developed for the championship?
Agag: At Formula E we want to encourage car designers and constructors to build their own cars and to develop new technology as the championship progresses. The only way to do this is to make it an open championship so any car homologated as Formula E by the FIA will be permitted to race. It was unrealistic to achieve this in the first season so we have introduced a common car to begin with which features the most advanced technology currently in use in electric Formula cars.