In about three weeks time, Formula E will make its way to Miami for the fifth round of the inaugural electric racing series. Even though the first season isn’t even half over, the forces at work within Formula E are already looking towards the next season, naming eight manufacturers that have already pledged to support the fledgling motorsport. And this time, they’ll be able to modify the powertrains of their electric race cars.
Currently, all the teams race the same Spark-Renault SRT_01E car with identical chassis, battery packs, and drivetrains, but starting with the next season teams will be able to tinker with the motor, inverter, gearbox, and cooling system. While the battery and chassis will remain off-limits for the time being, this will inject an extra level of engineering and development that will (hopefully) result in efficiency and power advancements.
Eventually, these technologies will trickle down, first to high-end luxury vehicles but eventually to mass-market EVs as well. I always like to cite fuel injection as a perfect example of a technology used various racing series for decades before finally becoming available on conventional, affordable passenger cars. Hopefully the time it takes for electric racing technology to come to the mass market will be measured in years, rather than decades.
As of right now, the eight manufacturers that are already committed to the next Formula E season are;
– ABT Sportsline
– NEXTEV TCR
– Renault Sport
– Venturi Automobiles
– Virgin Racing Engineering
Of these eight, five (ABT, Andretti, Mahindra, Venturi, and Virgin) are returning teams and two (NEXTV TCR and Motomatica) appear to be totally new. That leaves Renault Sport, which I’m guessing will be an evolution of the current E.Dams Renault team. Formula E fans will note that this is two teams short of the current ten team field. That means either the series is still looking for another two manufacturers to join the field, or it decided to trim down the field (the press release doesn’t touch on the issue).
Another reason for the smaller racing field could be that with the opening of engineering regulations, it is more difficult for some of the privateer teams in the series to compete. That said, shaving off a couple of teams to open up the drivetrains for modification is well worth the effort. Eventually, Formula E could resemble the wilder years of Formula One, which brought us innovations like the first active suspensions and six-wheeled race cars.
Get excited kids, good things are coming.