Formula E Signs Andretti Autosport For 2014-15 Season

By · July 18, 2013

Formula E's SPARK SRT_01E, painted with Andretti livery.

Andretti Autosport announced on Wednesday that it will become the third racing team to join the Formula E electric car racing series. This came on the heels of other recent announcements including choosing Berlin as the tenth host city in the 2014-15 season. The Formula E organization is now working toward approval from the FIA to launch the series.

The Teams

Andretti Autosport is one of the leading racing organizations in the U.S. It's best known for its activity in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and its 50-year legacy of racing. Formula E approached the team because it's "such a great name in motorsport." Andretti, which had been looking for opportunities to diversify, sees electric car racing as a way to get younger audiences interested in motorsports. Andretti joins China Racing and Drayson Racing in a field that is expected to grow to 10 teams.

Each team will have two cars and two drivers. The races will be about one hour in length, with cars traveling up to 220 kilometers (136 miles) per hour. There's an obvious question about the driving range for these cars at race speeds. How far can they go on a charge? Formula E said each car will last for 25 minutes of racing. When a car is depleted, rather than do something like a fast battery pack change, the drivers will switch cars. The swapping of cars will lend more drama to the event, because drivers will be required to do a 100-meter sprint between cars.

Andretti plans to race with one of their drivers for the championship, leaving the other driver spot open for "stars" from the IndyCar series.

The Formula E Series

Formula E aims to gain approval from the FIA of their plan to launch the series in September 2014. In a series of announcements this year, the organization lined up 10 host cities—and set up a subsidiary, Spark Racing Technologies, to build the race cars.

The 10 host cities are London, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Putrajaya, Bangkok, and Berlin. Each race will be held in a prominent location in the city center, rather than at a race track. Because electric cars don't create noise pollution problems, the series can run in city centers.

In Berlin, the race will be held on the grounds of the former Tempelhof Airport. Berlin was chosen because of its strong embrace of electric cars and electric car infrastructure. “We are delighted to be in Berlin and very grateful to the Senator and to the Berlin authorities for welcoming our Championship to their city," said Alejandro Agag, Formula E's founder. “With more than 1,200 electric vehicles and 220 public charging points already in circulation, Berlin is leading the way in Europe for innovation and sustainable mobility, which is why we selected it as a host city for Formula E. ”

The Cars

Spark Racing Technologies was formed earlier this year to develop race vehicle technology. Spark is led by Frédéric Vasseur, a long-time electric race car designer. He previously ran Formulec.

Last week, Spark announced that its partnerships would be formalized into a consortium consisting of: Renaul to lead powertrain architecture and systems integration; Williams Advanced Engineering for designing and manufacturing battery packs and battery management systems; McLaren Electronic Systems to develop the electric motor and gearbox; and Dallara, which will design and manufacture the car chassis and body.

Spark received approval from the FIA to manufacture the cars for the Formula E series. In the inaugural season, all teams will be racing with cars provided by Formula E, and to reduce costs, very few modifications will be allowed. Starting with the 2015 season, some teams—such as Drayson Racing—will manufacture their own cars.

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