Since the first days of Formula One, which dates back to 1950, there have been revolutionary changes to today’s modern passenger car. Following the switch to the F1 hybrid era, in 2014, manufacturers, such as Ferrari, Mercedes, and Renault, have exported their expertise and the many efficiency improvements of the hybrid F1 car to their commercial hybrid cars. Formula E, the latest novelty attracting a growing number of carmakers, provides a strategic platform for manufacturers to test the latest technologies and help stir the electric vehicle market.
Formula Electric started the same year as the hybrid change in F1, in 2014. Whilst the traditional F1 now only has four engine suppliers (Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, and Honda), ten manufacturers from around the world, such as Audi, Jaguar, BMW, and Mahindra, all compete in the FE 13 race-championship.
The concept of Formula E was brought up in 2011, when interest in the electrification of the automobile industry started to build up, in light of its potential in reducing CO2 emissions and health-damaging air- and noise pollution levels. Tesla, which is today’s biggest electric vehicle manufacturer, built 3 of the 4 most sold EV models in 2018. However, there may be change on the horizon as many car manufacturers join the race, the latest additions being Porsche and Mercedes for the upcoming 2018/2019 season.
Here are some the reasons why car manufacturers are deciding to join the electric counterpart to Formula 1:
Platform to test and develop
Some of the best engineering brains – from vehicle dynamics to aerodynamics to materials – end up in motorsport, where they have to deliver continuous improvements to car design and performance each week in keeping up in the races. Carmakers have recognized the benefits of such technology transfer. Testing their own electric motor and battery components in Formula E’s competitive motorsports context seems to be the way to go for Porsche and the many other manufacturers to ensure technological advancements for both race and road vehicles. For example, a massive step for next season is the Gen2 car, with its battery range extended by 85% compared to previous versions, meaning that drivers won’t have to change cars mid-race anymore.
Time of development
Formula E is an excellent way to shorten the timeframe between the innovation stage and the actual use of the new technology. Usually, it takes up to 10-15 years for new developments to hit the road, but with Formula E it takes only 2 years to get the technology from the racetrack to the road.
The value of entering the EV market is increasing greatly as more manufacturers enter Formula E. This allows for more technological development and a greater variety of EVs in the market. For example: Following Jaguar’s involvement in Formula E, they have developed the I-PACE, their luxury battery-electric offering. As a result, it is already stealing some of Tesla’s market share.
Formula E uses only temporary street circuits set up in the heart of the cities it visits, unlike F1. This makes the races more accessible and visible to the public. It also helps to spread the message that electric engines are no longer a futuristic concept but rather a vital part of today’s transportation.
As Formula E becomes the new Formula One, it is now a strategic platform for today’s car manufacturers to develop, test, promote and increase their competitiveness in the EV market.