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BERNARD NICLOT, Technical Director, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, spoke on February 11 at the SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Symposium in La Jolla, California. His topic was “Growing Importance of Energy Recovery in All Forms of Racing.”
Here is my summary of Bernard Niclot’s comments as well as those of others concerning FIA’s coming Formula E Championship. Many specifics have evolved since my last item on this electric car racing series at http://wp.me/p2ETap-aF.
The championship will commence later this year, initially with all entrants running Spark-Renault SRT_01E race cars. In its second season, teams will have the option of building their own machinery.
The monocoque chassis of the Spark-Renault is built by Italian specialist Dallara (which also supplies all the chassis for the IndyCar Series and Indy Lights). Like these others, a Formula E car is a single seater, but with electric power and battery storage of its energy.
The electric powertrain of a Spark-Renault comes from McLaren Electronics Systems (which also provides the spec Electronic Control Units for Formula 1). McLaren’s Tim Strafford had a presentation at the SAE Symposium, titled “Formula E Electric Drive.”
The Spark-Renault’s battery pack is supplied by Williams Advanced Engineering. Its capacity is 30 kWh (to put this in perspective, a Nissan Leaf has a 24-kWh battery pack). The paddle-shift sequential gearbox is a Hewland, with fixed ratios to reduce cost.
Not that Formula E is for the impecunious. Niclot cites a car cost not exceeding €350,000 (about $488,000).
There will be eight to ten events in the inaugural season, with urban circuits in major city centers. Rome and Rio are two mentioned. The average circuit length is around 2.5 km (1.6 miles). This is somewhat shorter than a typical circuit in international racing (even Monaco, for instance, is 2.0 miles).
Ten teams, each with a pair of drivers, are expected to compete in the inaugural season. Though all the teams will be based at a central facility at Donington Park, about 120 miles north/northwest of London, they represent an international array—with interesting backstories.
Andretti Autosport is headed by Mario’s son and ex-race driver Michael. The ABT of Audi Sport ABT is Hans-Jürgen Abt, whose ABT Sportlines team dominated Germany’s DTM championship. China Racing has official Beijing backing.
Dragon Racing’s owner and president is Jay Penske, Roger’s youngest son. Four-time Champ Car champion Sébastien Bourdais drives for Dragon’s IndyCar team.
Lord Paul Drayson has been at the forefront of electric car racing; see http://wp.me/p2ETap-hR for his views on EV evolution. The French e.dams team has Formula 1 legend Alain Prost as a co-founder. Mahindra has behind it this $16.2 billion Indian multinational operating in more than 100 countries.
Super Aguri’s guiding spirit is executive chairman and ex-Formula 1 pilot Aguri Suzuki. One of the co-founders of Venturi Grand Prix Formula E Team, headquartered in Monaco, is movie star Leonardo DiCaprio. And Virgin Racing’s team principal is Alex Tai, one of Sir Richard Branson’s project leaders.
An impressive bunch of motor sports entrepreneurs, each bringing special expertise. For instance, Drayson has observed that an optimized Formula E car will have low drag, in lieu of wasting energy for high downforce. This also fits the FIA view that racing must maximize the show.
There’s technical fascination with cars seemingly defying physics in 4g cornering. But it’s really exhilarating to see drivers exhibit fabulous car control when grip is less. Especially when they’re a bunch of young lions working to prove themselves as the high-amped music blares.
I already have the ear protectors. ds