Over the last few years there has been much speculation with regards to electric sports cars and whether indeed the FIA was willing and able to introduce a Formula E for electric vehicles. It was perhaps first mentioned around about five or six years ago with serious intent although unfortunately battery technology issues at the time together with a reluctance of sponsors to get involved with electric vehicles meant that the project was put on the backburner. However, Formula E has finally arrived!
What can we expect?
The FIA has already created a subsidiary which will look after the Formula E racing series which is expected to begin in 2014. We have also seen a number of prominent cities around the world indicating their willingness to be involved in the electric car series and signups are happening as we speak.
Until we see Formula E get off the ground the FIA has decided that teams will use cars developed by McLaren and Spark Racing Technologies which can hit speeds of up to 250 km/h. This is more than enough to capture the attention of racing fans around the world and while the optimum technology may take some years to develop we have certainly seen enough new technology over recent times to warrant the introduction of the Formula E series.
The Formula E series
The series is expected to begin in 2014, although development work and foundation work is well underway, taking in four different continents and 10 different cities. Initially it may not be as popular as the likes of Formula One but there are high hopes that, in line with Formula One’s development, the Formula E series will encourage the development of electric car technology, battery-powered technology and the use of more aerodynamic systems.
Initially sponsors were concerned that electric sports cars would be “here today and gone tomorrow” in line with the earlier days of the electric vehicle market, but the FIA and its backers have been quick to dismiss these concerns. The introduction of the 2014 series will give the sport some backbone and it will give sponsors the confidence that they are not investing in a sport which will be “here today, gone tomorrow”. Sponsorship will play a major role in the ongoing development of Formula E as it has done with Formula One and other areas of sport.
Will you miss the whoosh of a F1 car?
It may surprise many people to learn that despite the ongoing challenges of creating a Formula E series, one of the more bizarre questions in the minds of some people is whether these electric sports cars will have the same whoosh engine noise as an F1 vehicle! The fact is that electric vehicles of today, including the Formula E sports cars, will not have anywhere near the same kind of engine noise that we are all currently accustomed to. Will this make a difference?
For many people it is the excitement, the experience and the noise of the F1 series which makes it stand out from the best of the rest. You may be able to hear the cars, you may be able to feel the anticipation but very often the noise of the vehicle will hit your eardrums well before the car is in sight. The situation with regards to electric sports cars will be very different, as there will be no audible engine noise, which has led some to express concern about how they can build up an atmosphere amongst the crowds.
Stepping aside from the issue of engine noise, the introduction of the Formula E racing series will have a massive impact upon the overall electric car market. While we often see F1 as something of a novelty as opposed to a relevant development system, you would be surprised how many developments introduced by F1 teams have gone on to be adopted by domestic car manufacturers. It is the developments behind the scenes, the ones which the general public do not see, which will in later years appear on your everyday vehicle.
The situation with regards to electric vehicles is perhaps more prominent than that associated with traditional fuel vehicles at this moment in time. There have been issues with battery capacity, there have been issues with speed although slowly but surely these issues are clearing. If the Formula E teams can introduce new battery systems, new technology to increase journey capacity then these are elements which would be very much welcomed by domestic electric vehicle manufacturers.
It is worth noting that when the 2014 Formula E series does begin it is likely that due to current battery capacity we will see two vehicles used per team per one-hour race. While this is not a perfect scenario by any means it does offer something different to F1 and opens up a whole array of other exciting prospects for the watching public.
Formula E has been on the cards for some time now although it is only recently that sponsors and backers have stepped forward with more positive noises. The introduction of the 2014 series will be a watershed moment for the sport and as each year goes by this will give sponsors and backers more confidence. There has been some criticism about the current technology available for electric sports cars and the fact that this will limit journey capacity and in some cases speed. However, perhaps we are looking at this from the wrong angle?
If the electric vehicle market, and in particular the electric sports vehicle market, is in such infancy, there should be major developments fairly quickly once the Formula E series is underway. The jump in technological advances from year to year would be there for all to see, the atmosphere at the various venues will change as excitement increases and popularity builds. We now have an opportune moment to watch the development of electric sports vehicles from a very early stage under the guise of the FIA which will bring backing and funding to the doorstep of this industry.