When the second Formula E season begins in Beijing on October 24, the batteries the race cars use will have 170 kW of power, up from 150 kW last season. The extra power will help the cars accelerate faster and attain higher top speeds.
Williams F1 Advanced Engineering is the sole supplier of batteries for Formula E. Its expertise with batteries began when Formula One kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) to the racing in 1998. KERS uses an electric motor to help power the cars forward and then, during braking, the motor becomes a generator that sends electrical energy to a battery to be stored for use later.
Williams F1 originally engineered the Formula E battery for 133 kW of power, but when it proved more robust than anticipated during testing, the limit was raised to 150 kW. There was only one battery related failure during the entire first season.
Following a number of tests in recent months to assess the feasibility of a further power increase, Williams confirmed that all teams will now be able to race with a maximum power of 170 kW during each Formula E race in season two, according to Green Car Congress. The physical dimensions of the batteries between last season and this remain unchanged.
Formula E features all-electric race cars. During the first season, the teams all raced cars that were technically identical. Each had an electric motor and 5-speed transmission from one supplier. For season two, the series will permit the 10 teams to use motors and transmissions of their own choosing. Some of the teams have opted for a single-speed drivetrain, on the theory that fewer shifts mean faster lap times. Others will use a 6-speed transmission, some will stay with the 5-speed unit from last year, and one team will have a 4-speed transmission.
Efficiency is the name of the game in Formula E. Each driver must make at least one pit stop to change cars during the 1-hour race, since no battery is capable of powering a race car for the entire race distance — yet. But Formula E is poised to become a testing ground for new electric car technology. The pace car this year will use a wireless recharging system from QualComm that is twice as fast as last year’s system. It won’t be long before advanced technology makes it possible for the batteries to last an entire race or for rapid recharging during pit stops.
Sir Richard Branson says Formula E will outshine Formula One in popularity in 5 years. That’s a bit of a stretch, but the series is generating lots of buzz and interest from cities around the world. Last year, the title came down to the final turn of the final lap of the final race. This year, the racing promises to be even more intense.