Formula E Electric Racing Coming in 2014

By · August 29, 2012

LolaDrayson

The electric-powered Drayson Le Mans prototype set an impressive time during this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed. More and more EVs are hitting race circuits around the world.

Electric-powered Formula E racecars will bring the fury, but perhaps not the sound, of F1-style racing to city centers around the world beginning in 2014. Formula One’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), will license the commercial rights to the new electric championship, with a demo run scheduled in 2013 and full race series planned the following year. The announcement follows several recent attempts—some might label them half-hearted—by the FIA to make Formula One more environmentally conscious. Engines have been downsized from V-10s to V-8s, with a move to turbocharged 1.4-liter V-6 engines beginning in 2014. Kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) and push-to-pass buttons have already been integrated into the current crop of F1 machinery.

International Teamwork

According to online reports, Formula E is being led by group of international investors, including Alejandro Agag, owner of the Spanish-based Barwa Addax GP2 and GP3 racing teams. Also involved is Britain’s Lord Drayson, of the Drayson Racing team which recently set a record for electric-powered vehicles at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb. The team’s lithe-looking B12/69V Le Mans prototype was 11th fastest overall, with a time of 53.9 seconds. Racing teams such as Drayson and Barwa Addax will be free to race their own vehicles in the Formula E series, or use a spec model based on the open-wheel Formulec EF01 prototype

It appears the Formula E’s rulebook will be much more flexible than other racing series. Open and closed cockpit racecars will be able to compete, while the all-electric powertrains will most likely be limited only by a total weight limit. Races are planned for city centers, versus traditional circuits that are often hours away from urban areas. Having racing cars that run in near silence could help the series navigate around noise pollution issues—though racing purists might lament the lack of a high-revving ICE soundtrack. A demonstration run, purportedly set for Rio de Janeiro, is scheduled sometime next year.

Some racing organizers have proposed using artificial sounds to replace the noise and vibration from petro-powered racers. You know those guys bumping the bass next to you at a stoplight? Imagine that on steroids.

"This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience,” said FIA president Jean Todt in comments published by Racer.com. “This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share the FIA values and objectives of clean energy, mobility and sustainability with a wider and younger audience."

EVs in the Racing World

Electric-powered racecars are making an impact all around the world. In addition to the Drayson Le Mans prototype’s hill climb earlier this summer, solar-powered electric vehicles will participate in this November’s SCORE Baja 1000 desert race. The grueling challenge puts even the sturdiest fuel-guzzling machines to the ultimate test, as the race winds its way down the Baja peninsula. Earlier this year, an Audi R8 e-tron set an electric vehicle record at the sinuous 12.9-mile Nürburgring racetrack in Germany. While the R8 e-tron is technically a production car, its time of 8 minutes and 9 seconds bested some pretty racy street machines, such as the Ferrari F355 and Dodge Viper GTS. And the TTXGP all-electric motorcycle race series has been garnering a lot of attention for the past few years. The momentum for electric racing appears to be unstoppable.

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