Capital Karts knows that electric cars are a hot topic these days, particularly due to Jaguar’s announcement that it will return to racing with a team in the FIA Formula E Championship in the autumn. The debate centres on whether Formula E could ever replace F1 as a global Motorsport.
So far, the experts are divided. Some say it’s unlikely. Others feel it’s inevitable.
FIA Formula E Championship
At one-second intervals, the starting lights go red. Then, within four to seven seconds, they go out and the Formula car grid springs into action towards the first corner. It’s a typical scene, like any other motor racing event, except on this occasion, the crowd’s roar is louder than the engines.
The Formula E Championship was first announced in July 2011, by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile. The organiser announced that the event would begin in 2013, specifically for electric vehicles, with a view to being socially responsible. Sponsorship was sought from the electric and energy industry and Formula E became distinct from any other type of Motorsport.
Toyota Motorsport Group introduced the EV P001, which completed an astounding 7:47.8 lap at the Nürburgring. With 375hp, 590 lb-ft of torque and a top speed of more than 160 mph, the car dispelled any idea that it would be “boring” to watch.
Pros of Formula E racing
The FIA produced some compelling arguments in favour of Formula E. The body targeted the sport towards younger fans, who were generally viewed as being more interested in environmental issues than the die-hard F1 fans would ever be. The younger generation was into electronic gaming and social media and FIA envisaged more interactivity with their fan-base. This included driver blogs on social media and live gaming, such as electronic co-drives.
Sergio Rinland, designer of Toyota’s EV P001, in an interview with Race Tech magazine, agreed that young people had very different views from their older counterparts on the importance of speed, noise, recycling and energy use.
Technical director of Westfield Sports Cars Dr Paul Faithfull, in the same edition of Race Tech, said you didn’t need a huge amount of noise from the cars to make Formula E exciting. Westfield has designed a $140,000 iRacer BEV race car, inspired by Lotus Seven. Mr Faithfull believed tight, twisting circuits were the way forward for electric racing.
“It’s about getting the spectators’ adrenaline going”, he insisted.
Cons of Formula E Racing
Where’s the noise? This is the main question asked of Formula E by those who believe it’s not a true motor race without the roar of the engines adding to the excitement. With F1 fans known as “petrol heads”, where’s the fun in having cars with no petrol?
Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula One Group, speaking to the Australian Associated Press, believed the lack of noise in Formula E was a shortcoming. He said the lack of noise, particularly in the pit lane, could be dangerous as drivers wouldn’t hear another car coming up behind them at speed.
JD Power, an American global marketing information service, has expressed concern about electric cars’ reliability, particularly in cold weather that could reduce their battery capacity. They also argue that a fully-electric car can be driven only for a relatively short distance before it needs recharging, leading to shorter races. The 30 kilowatt-hour battery pack provides limited range, necessitating a midway car swap and reducing the race to less than one hour.
Critics also cite the fact electric cars aren’t as powerful, taking some of the thrill factor out of racing.
Although the manufacturers and the motor racing industry are addressing the EV concerns, it will take time. There’s no “quick fix”. Although electric vehicles are going a long way to creating a greener, more sustainable environment, it seems unlikely that Formula E will eliminate F1, at least for the foreseeable future.