Due to the limitations of battery technology, the high-performance electric racers of the upcoming Formula E series can’t complete an hour-long race on just a single charge. One would think that Formula E teams would simply swap batteries, but instead the FIA is mandating drivers switch their entire car. Many EV racing fans, ourselves included, have wondered why, so we reached out to Formula E in this exclusive interview for answers.
The response we got to our questions comes from Carlos Nune, Technical Director of Formula E. His answers shed light on why the FIA decided drivers should swap cars, and not just batteries.
1) How does sealing the battery unit make the Formula E racer safer?
The battery (which is part of the RESS ‘Rechargeable energy Storage System’ Compartment) must be made of a fire resistant and fluid-tight material, and must be certified to UN Transportation standards. This is the highest standards currently possible. On top of the above standard tests, the car must pass the FIA crash tests related to the car impact structures. (See 2nd para here:http://www.fiaformulae.com/
2) What other precautions is the FIA mandating for Formula E racers that might differ from more conventional race cars?
We will have a number of specific rules related to the Formula’s electric safety side, just as other series have for fuel using cars. However, apart from that, there are no major differences with everything tested to the highest possible FIA safety standards (basically F1 standards).
3) How will the car-switching system work?
Race pit stops will be carried out just outside the garages (in the pit area/lane) as and when the teams feel it most advantageous to their battery charge state / race strategy. Although still to be confirmed, we will most likely have a fixed minimum time for the pit stop to allow the change of car to be done without short cuts again so the highest possible safety standards are met.
4) Is there any hope for one day seeing a battery-swapping method instead, or is the future of Formula E in durable batteries and super-fast recharging?
Battery swapping is not a practical solution due to size/safety etc. More importantly though, this is not our aim. Formula E aims to develop the battery duration and the charging side, as well as the drivetrain motors to eventually only have one car per driver and longer races. In short we want to push the technological boundaries of what is currently achievable rather than use a temporary measure.
Thanks to Tom Phillips and Carlos Nune of Formula E for helping clairify that for us, and let us say once more how much we’re looking forward to the inaugural Formula E season.