It is difficult to understand the Formula E experience until you see it for yourself. It’s not so much about activating all five senses, because the noise levels are minimal in comparison with other motorsports events, and you don’t get the odours of burning oil and petrol that are typical of normal racing circuits.
The really attractive thing about Formula E is its unique atmosphere, created by races right at the heart of the most important cities in the world and with all sorts of people coming to watch. All the circuits are on public roads, used by ordinary traffic on most days of the year, right in the centre of the respective city.
The first world championship for electric cars, in fact, attracts people who would probably never go to the usual motor races, with families and children. The first race in the fifth Formula E season took place on 15 December in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Marrakesh ePrix was held on 12 January 2019, and this will be followed by Santiago, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Sanya, Rome, Paris, Monaco, Berlin, Bern and New York City.
A Formula E race always creates a lot of anticipation in the cities hosing the race. The fact that it is in the city centre and the electronic technology employed are factors that attract spectators who would never go to a Formula 1 circuit but who are interested by the innovative aspects of Formula E. The 2018-19 season is particularly important, because the technological development of batteries has made it possible to eliminate the mid-race car-change, because the same car is now capable of completing the 45-minute race. Ten teams and 20 drivers are taking part in the championship.
According to the regulations, drivers have to use identical race-cars and batteries. However, the electric motors, transmission and suspension systems are developed by the teams themselves, who are engaged in the quest not just for speed, but also efficiency. Differently to Formula 1, speed is not the only important factor: energy management is also fundamental.
In fact, the battery provides enough energy to cover 80% of the total distance, and so the driver has to understand how and when to recover energy in order not to risk running out of power. The maximum power allowed is 250 kW in qualifying sessions and 200 kW for the race itself. A new feature this season is so-called Attack Mode, in which drivers receive an extra 25 kW of power by driving through a certain area of the circuit. In addition, Fanboost is an extra burst of power up to 250 kW that can be used in a 5-second window during the second half of the race, decided by fans voting for their favourite driver on social media.
The battery pack is identical for all cars: it weighs 374 kg and it is supplied by McLaren. The batteries are located just behind the driver, it has a capacity of 53 kWh, and it can be completely recharged in 45 minutes. Another innovation this season is the ‘brake-by-wire’ system, in which braking is completely separated from the energy recovery function on the rear axis. The minimum weight allowed for a Formula E car is 900 kg including the driver. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is 3.1 seconds, and the top speed is about 240 km/h.
Images: Boggi Milano