Formula E is attracting lots of attention from major manufacturers, Until a few years ago, a car company wishing to get its name in front of race fans would choose to enter Formula One. Honda, Toyota, Ford, and BMW got heavily involved in F1, only to withdraw from competition due to the staggering costs involved and uncertain returns on their sizable investments.
For the past decade, Volkswagen was rumored to be on the verge of jumping into Formula One,too. Insiders claimed it actually had a complete hybrid powertrain sitting on a shelf somewhere, ready to go. Now, Audi has decided to it wants to expand its involvement in Formula E, the open wheel racing series for electric race cars. Since Audi is part of the Volkswagen group, VW has clearly decided to turn its back on Formula One.
Audi has sponsored the ABT Schaeffler in each of the first two season and will expand its sponsorship in season three, which begins in Hong Kong in October. It also says it plans to have its own factory team when season four begins in 2017. If so, Audi will join a number of other auto manufacturers who are gravitating to Formula E. Jaguar, Mahindra, and Renault have their own teams. Electric car start-ups Faraday Future and NextEV are also involved.
“By 2025, every fourth Audi should be an electric vehicle,” Dr. Stefan Knirsch, a member of Audi’s board of management, said in a statement. “The first model for this is planned to be an SUV we’re going to present in 2018. In the light of these plans, adapting our motorsport program and taking up a commitment in a fully electric racing series is only a logical move.”
We talk a lot here about tipping points — those moments in time when the flow of history shifts from one direction to another. 5 years ago, Alejandro Agag, the person who first proposed a racing series for electric cars, was laughed at. Then he ran into Jean Todt, who decided the FIA would sanction the series. The rest, as they say, is history. Suddenly, Formula E is growing by leaps and bounds while Formula One is paying people to join its series.
Volkswagen may be in the middle of dark times as it struggles to undo the damage caused by its diesel emissions cheating scandal, but it is still one of the world’s major car companies. If it is opting to back electric racing, then the tipping point between the internal combustion engine and electric motoring is close at hand.