Formula E is only in its second season, but already it has become part of the auto racing culture around the world. When Alejandro Agag first proposed the idea of racing electric cars, he was laughed at. That was until FIA president Jean Todt decided maybe Agag wasn’t crazy after all and that Formula E deserved a chance. People aren’t laughing any more. In fact, judging by the television ratings in North America, Formula E is now more popular than Formula One.
Agag has been very cautious about allowing rule changes in the series. That accomplishes two things. First, it keeps costs down for the teams. Second, it puts the focus on the drivers, instead of the cars. The one thing that the minions in charge of Formula One do not understand is that they have an entertainment product. People tune in to see close, competitive racing. They are not interested in some snooze-a-palooza where one team has a one second a lap advantage over all the other cars in the race. Formula E gives fans the intense, wheel to wheel, slice and dice racing they crave.
This year, the teams are free to choose their own transmissions. Some have elected to use only one gear; others are using up to 6 gears. The racing has been intense and exciting. But the cars have been limited so far to a maximum power of 200 kW. There was a proposal to increase that to 250 kW for season three, but Agag and his management team have decided to move cautiously in this area. Power will remain the same for season three, then go up gradually to 225 kW in season four and 250 kW in season 5.
The sport is very much interested in developing better batteries that can power the cars for a full one hour race. At present, the drivers must pit once during the contest and switch to a second car with a fully charged battery. Agag would like to see that pit stop eliminated. The rules will also allow the teams to develop their own motors and battery control systems beginning in season three.
The pace of change in Formula E is slow and deliberate. That’s a good thing.