Analysis: What will Formula E look like in 2018?

While Formula E reconvenes on the track in Mexico City this weekend, behind the scenes plans are being finalised to prepare for the all-electric championship’s long-term future.

That future looks solid from a commercial, sporting and technical perspective. Away from the paddock opinions still curiously assimilate Formula E with such as A1 GP; the series that brightly, if briefly, coloured the international racing scene a decade ago.

Formula E is different for several key reasons, and for these the FIA, Formula E Holdings Ltd and the teams should take considerable credit.

Firstly, Formula E has a clear and crucially flexible technical road-map, identified last Friday by the notification of tenders for single chassis and battery suppliers.

This is vital for a series which over the coming two-and-a-half seasons will see many new to racing technologies be considered by the teams.

Some will only be tried on test benches and simulators, but with the FIA and Formula E Holdings Ltd, the emphasis is very much on continuing to nourish and grow this fresh discipline of racing, which has so far attracted several big name OEMs and will continue to welcome at least one other before season five.

Additionally all of this has to be organised without costs escalating to an unmanageable degree.

Secondly, Formula E hasn’t lost sight of the sporting spectacle and its ability to engage and to stimulate new generations of spectators, whether they are dyed-in-the-wool race fans or Generation Y gamers who want to interact with the cars and stars.

Motorsport.com asked several figures inside and outside of the Formula E paddock for their opinions on where Formula E might be at the start of season five (in 2018), and how it will get there.

The EV specialist – Paul McNamara, Technical Director at Williams Advanced Engineering

“We expect the target for season five to be a single car capable of doing a complete race duration without the need for a car swap during the race. 

"With chassis and regeneration changes this won’t require a doubling of the energy for same performance level but a good working assumption is to double the current energy capacity.  

"To enable this to be done without unacceptable impact on battery size and weight, there will need to be upgraded cells capable of higher specific energy capacity; with the current planned developments from cell manufacturers we have mapped out what is likely to be available for season five.  

“We kicked of an internal study in 2015 to understand the battery design implications; there will also need to be improvements in packaging, cooling and electrical integration to achieve an improved cell to battery weight ratio.   

"We believe that an acceptable solution can be found to balance the targets of power, energy, weight and package to maintain the development of Formula E as an exciting and innovative series."

Follow WAE on Twitter @williamsadenv

 

Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team
Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team

Photo by: FIA Formula E

The Driver - Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV TCR

“It is going to be interesting how Formula E looks in season five because there is so much going on with the powertrain and different technologies.

"The aim is to have one car, which is fine, but I would like to still see a pit stop as part of the rules. I think you need that dynamic in races.

“You still need to drive a car quickly in Formula E like any other car, but the strategy and efficiency aspect is a big part of it. Developing the most efficient car is a big advantage.

"This is the great thing about Formula E in terms of the chassis, powertrain, energy consumption, driving style and so on.

"So there are more driving skills that you use here and I really enjoy it and I love the analysis of it, so I hope the overall discipline gets more like this in the future.

“We have close and strategic races in Formula E, which is obviously very important. So is the relevancy to manufacturers and EV companies.

"Motorsport speeds up the development because it is very competitive, so the road relevancy is very important and we can see more manufacturers committing to build electric cars.

“I think the Fanboost concept and having a way for fans to interact and feel part of the race is very important and a great initiative of the championship.

"We have to grow the fan base and allow this interaction with teams and drivers. I hope this continues and grows."

Follow Oliver on Twitter @OliverTurvey

 

Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team
Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team

Photo by: FIA Formula E

The Manufacturer Tech Guru – Vincent Gaillardot, Renault e.dams

“I think most people are agreed that we want more power to improve the show, that is one thing, doing it with a single car is another.

"We see it in-line with a manufacturer’s expectation with the technology we will have available in the future. It will not be a black and white thing; it will be very much step-by-step for everyone when we increase the power by whatever percent is agreed.

"We always have to take in to consideration the FIA roadmap. What we have to do, is to find how we can improve our competitiveness within this FIA roadmap, which means we have to decide which technologies we implement because you have to re-design everything.

“We are looking at keeping the same race length. We want to have a race lap time approximately the same as what we see in qualifying today – the aim is increased efficiency, all the time.

"So we will work towards all the various parameters to reach the most efficient targets. We are also looking at the overall car weight, the drag levels, grip levels, etc.

"I think that energy wise we will look at more or less double what we have now in season five. Another we aspect to see is to increase the re-gen value on the overall energy.”

Follow Renault e.dams on Twitter @RENAULTedams

 

Sébastien Buemi, Renault e.Dams
Sébastien Buemi, Renault e.Dams

Photo by: FIA Formula E

The Team Principal – Mark Preston, Team Aguri

“Whatever we do, it has to be kept relevant to what people will be driving on the roads. I think the world is going more and more to electric connected autonomous vehicles.

"When it happens is hard to know, but certainly that is the trend that big auto and tech companies are aiming at right now.

“Looking ahead I like to focus on what people are most worried about in buying an electric car for themselves. So, for example we should be looking at fast charging and dealing with the range aspect.

"The increase in getting better re-generation will be very important going forward and we need to look at that closely right now. Using the racing to inform the future buyers on the road how they can increase their range, even through new driving techniques, like the drivers in Formula E, is important.

“Relevancy to the auto industry and where it is going will drive everything we do on the track. We will have to wait and see what Formula E looks like in 2018 but in my mind the important issues are fast charging, re-gen and showing we can engineer in line with OEMs.

"These I believe are the core topics which will shape the future of the series.”

Follow Mark on Twitter @markpreston3

 

Antonio Felix da Costa, Team Aguri
Antonio Felix da Costa, Team Aguri

Photo by: Guido Beck / ASN Media

The passionate EV exponent and race driver – Alexander Sims

“I always said that we should give Formula E five years to mature and find its feet. Let both the technology develop to where there are interesting and innovative things happening, and also in the sporting side where the championship has had time to trial different ideas.

“Having more power is certainly needed from a driver’s point of view I feel. The car was at 180kW I think when I drove it at Donington and it felt underpowered compared to other race cars.

"At 250kW it will feel more like an F3 car. It would have more power than them but it will be a good 200kgs or so heavier which would equalise the feeling.

"As for how it affects the driver, I think it will just feel more alive and more like a proper racing car.

“I think Fanboost is starting to be accepted and I applaud Formula E for having the guts to attempt it in the first place. We have to remember that Formula E is not trying to compete with Formula 1 and nor would it want to.

"The whole concept behind the championship is to do things differently and so I would encourage any ideas to be seriously considered for the future.

"It is a sport so you have to keep the sporting side alive because that brings credibility, but having more fan interaction and creating interest for the person who isn’t necessarily a die-hard motorsport nut can only be a good thing.”

Follow Alexander on Twitter @AlexanderSims

 

Alexander Sims
Alexander Sims

Photo by: BMW AG

The informed fan - Joe Jones

“I think what is most likely is that there won't be the "sudden leap" Formula E is looking for in battery tech. 250kW and other energy targets could though be met by a combination of things.

“Firstly, 4WD. It allows way more energy to be recuperated under braking. Just as an example, the Delta E4 Coupe chose not even to have re-generation because they thought it wasn't worth it considering it was RWD. It will not only make the cars faster, but more efficient too.

“Secondly, better battery tech. Improved cells, better battery management systems, and potentially new chemistries. An FE battery doesn't have to last forever, which means manufacturers will have more leeway to have worse degradation but better energy density, which is the problem/benefit with many battery techs.

"Supercapacitors could work well in taking the strain off the main battery during re-gen and acceleration.

“There will also be continued developments with motor design. The key to this is software simulations of motors. Algorithms which simulate the friction and torques characteristics of motors can actually make quite considerable gains to motors.”

Follow Joe on Twitter @JoePanikk

 

Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport

Photo by: Guido Beck / ASN Media

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About this article
Series Formula E
Drivers Oliver Turvey , Alexander Sims
Article type Analysis