The Future of Formula Racing

Technology and Formula cars is a match made in heaven, and you need not be an expert to know it: the masterful pairing of the sleek aerodynamic carbon-fiber body and one of the most powerful internal combustion engines in the world is the key ingredient to the beast that is known as Formula One.

But in the present era, sustainability is of concern to the world, and all sectors are searching for ways to go “green”. Always up for the challenge, The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has sanctioned, as of 2012, a new class of auto racing, called Formula E.

The First Formula E Car: Spark-Renault SRT_01E
The first Formula E car: Spark-Renault SRT_01E

E is for Electric. As in electrically-powered racing car. Yes, it’s true: Formula has officially gone green!

A technological masterpiece in every way, the brand-new Formula E car, named Spark-Renault SRT_01E, is the hybrid version of F1 cars: it is equipped with a four-speed sequential gearbox, a battery that recovers energy from braking, and motors evolved from the McLaren P1 hybrid supercar.

The Formula E series rules limit the motors to 134 kilowatts of power (180 horsepower), but at certain times in the race, which will last about an hour, drivers will be allowed to boost to 200 kW (270 hp), the equivalent of 225 kilometers per hour. However, what the Formula E car lacks in speed, it will make up for in acceleration: it has indeed set the record time for an electric car to reach 100 km/h – 2.3 seconds!

In the inaugural season of Formula E’s competition (2014-2015), all cars will be identical. We shall definitely witness a shift in the teams’ priorities: they will no longer focus on speed, but rather on how to manage their electric resources, namely the state of health of the battery. The cars will race until their batteries run out. But in lieu of changing batteries, pit stops will involve a change of car: the driver will sprint from one car to another, fully-charged, and continue the race while the pit crews recharge the battery of the first car!

Mark your calendars, for the first Formula E race, set in Beijing, on September 20, 2014, will make history. Judging by the lightening-fast development of electric cars, there is no doubt that any limit in terms of performance will soon be remedied and surpassed. No one can know what the future may hold; but one thing is certain: the future is bright for Formula E.

-J.

 

Sources:

  • Laursen, Lucas. “Electrifying Formula One.” IEEE Spectrum Nov. 2013: 7-8
  • Nathan, Stuart. “The Fast and the Formula E.” IEEE Spectrum Jan. 2014: 35-36
This article was submitted to the USJ IEEE Student Branch’s competition (“Write a small paragraph about the future of Formula Racing”). It won the first prize.

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