Automotive

Opinion: Three things we'd like to see in Formula E

Opinion: Three things we'd lik...
View 8 Images
The two ABT Sportsline cars cross the line in Montreal 
1/8
The two ABT Sportsline cars cross the line in Montreal 
Lucas Di Grassi celebrates his title win in the third season of Formula E 
2/8
Lucas Di Grassi celebrates his title win in the third season of Formula E 
3/8
Formula E is run in big cities 
4/8
Formula E is run in big cities 
Jaguar is one high-profile entrant in Formula E 
5/8
Jaguar is one high-profile entrant in Formula E 
Formula E is still hampered by the need for a mid-race car change 
6/8
Formula E is still hampered by the need for a mid-race car change 
Chaos at the first corner of the Montreal ePrix 
7/8
Chaos at the first corner of the Montreal ePrix 
NIO and Faraday Future are two of the biggest names in Formula E 
8/8
NIO and Faraday Future are two of the biggest names in Formula E 
View gallery - 8 images

Since launching in 2014, Formula E has developed into a high-voltage showcase for what battery-powered cars can do. The third season came to a close on the weekend, with Lucas Di Grassi snatching the driver title in dramatic circumstances. Races in big cities, plenty of drama and growing support from big brands have made the category a growing force, but it's far from perfect. Here are three things we'd like to see for more engaging racing in Formula E ... and one thing we'd like to keep.

Crank up the grip

NIO and Faraday Future are two of the biggest names in Formula E 
NIO and Faraday Future are two of the biggest names in Formula E 

This seems like an obvious one for any type of racing, but hear us out here. Cars produce around 200 kW (270 hp) of power in qualifying trim, and hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in just under three seconds. They're dialled back to just 172 kW (230 hp) in race trim. Faraday Future says its 880 kg (1940 lb) car tops out at 241 km/h (150 mph), although there aren't many straights on the Formula E catalogue long enough to reach that lofty pace.

Formula 1 and World Endurance Championship cars run on specially designed slicks in the dry and wets in the, er, wet. On the other hand, Formula E cars are forced to run with all-weather Michelin tires that are directly related to the ones you can buy at the local Tire Rack. This is supposedly designed to make the sport more relevant to the real world, but we'd suggest it may have a bit more to do with the better battery range offered by their low rolling resistance.

Although it's nice to see the cars slithering around on track, this series is designed to act as a showcase for what electric cars can do. Rather than artificially limiting the cars with road tires, we'd love to see them let loose with proper racing rubber. Let's see just how hard cars with batteries can really go.

Drop the swap

Formula E is still hampered by the need for a mid-race car change 
Formula E is still hampered by the need for a mid-race car change 

For those who haven't watched a Formula E race, or spent any time behind the wheel of an electric vehicle, range is still a thorny issue. Because the current cars can't survive a full race without running flat, drivers come into the pits at the mid-race point and jump into a fresh, fully charged car.

Range anxiety – the fear of running out of battery – is still perceived as one of the biggest hindrances to people adopting electric vehicles, and the fact the pinnacle of EV racing is so heavily influenced by battery limitations is an issue that needs addressing. Swapping batteries was tabled when the sport was created, but the FIA eventually chose a closed-off underbody (without a removable battery) because it was safer.

Thankfully, the Formula E organizers clearly know it's a problem. The 2018/19 season will see the end of the current 28 kWh battery packs, which will be replaced with a new 54 kWh unit capable of surviving a full race. We've got one more season of silly driver swaps to survive, then.

Give us a peek under the skin

Chaos at the first corner of the Montreal ePrix 
Chaos at the first corner of the Montreal ePrix 

Even though there's no complex eight-speed gearbox or fuel-delivery modes to fiddle around with, there's a lot for drivers to do behind the wheel of a Formula E car. Cars put their power to the road through a two-speed gearbox, and the steering wheel is festooned with buttons that drivers are constantly fiddling with to gain an edge.

One of the most interesting aspects of Formula 1 is how teams manage their tires and fuel loads throughout the race. Formula E could give tech-conscious fans a deeper look into all the geeky goodness going on during the race – what power mode the driver is using, how much time they're spending at full throttle and how much energy they're drawing under braking – for a better understanding of why certain drivers are quicker during different points in the race.

Don't change the drama, though

Lucas Di Grassi celebrates his title win in the third season of Formula E 
Lucas Di Grassi celebrates his title win in the third season of Formula E 

If there's one area where Formula E has its competitors licked, it's on-track overtaking. The combination of tight street circuits and short races means cars are constantly swapping places. Margins are incredibly tight, and big crashes are common among the young field of drivers.

Have you watched Formula E? Let us know what you think – and what you'd like to see changed – in the comments below.

Di Grassi vs Buemi: From Heaven To Hell - Formula E

View gallery - 8 images
13 comments
KaiserPingo
Vast improvements in battery technologi is a must !!! They have to, as quickly as possible, getting closer to the performance of true F1-cars. Cutting down 5 - 10 laps on a complete race is surveable, but E-racers have to match the topspeeds on the straights of the real racetracks. When that happens, the two classes will merge and E will be F1 ! Without that pathetic and idiotic and no-good Halo contraption, thought up by wimps
SoundRacer
How about good old V8, V10 or V12 sounds? Either with speakers in the cars and a volume that is not too high, or wireless to be enjoyed with headphones for the engine sound enthusiasts. SoundRacer technology is already available...
Bahnstormer
Attended NYC E Prix and found view of the track from even the top of the grandstands to be very poor. If I attend another race, there will have to be more of the track visible .
andy.capp
1. Agreed, go with slicks. 2. Agreed, lose the battery swap, take a risk, prove e-cars can put down power yet still go the distance. 3. End artificial top end speed restrictions... if they want to trade range for speed, let them. 4. Lose the fan voted electricity bonus... makes the series smell like NASCAR "entertainment" rather than a sport. 5. With Audi, Mercedes and Porsche coming aboard, consider altering body style to closed wheel, open cockpit (a la the late, great CanAm)... safer, more battery room, cars able to safely "rub and race" and format closer to where Audi, Mercedes and Porsche have come from. Also give Formula E a unique appearance, not just another open wheen F1 knock off. Although, they are the coolest looking open wheel cars on the planet. Formula E is new, you don't have to copy anyone's format... create your own that is best for you. Great series, good luck, like the urban venues. Consider using in town / near town airport runway courses (like Cleveland Indycar)... great racing, safe, harkens back to racing's early days, offers prebuilt in town / near town location. Cheers.
owlbeyou
Don't understand why all the cars have the same body with different paint jobs. And why wasn't the race in Mtl. held at the Gilles Villeneuve racetrack? Sure, on the city streets it was cool, but it involved at least 3 weeks of prepping the track and another 1-2 weeks of taking it down, with all the traffic congestion that entailed. I cannot see this as a yearly event on the streets. Peoples' tolerances will become seriously stretched. Formula E is becoming one more harbinger of the EV revolution, but it still has a lot of growing pains to deal with.
Dennis Kopcial
To keep attendance up, the ability to see the race has to improve. In Brooklyn, most of the views were of 10 - 25 feet of the track at most. I also think the fan vote boost is a bad idea.
kurik
Always thought the cars were too long for the tracks they are on. If you are doing street then make them shorter....give them better grip as they slide everywhere so easily...and make them last on one battery. Agree with one commenter who said go for the closed wheel idea. Make it different and own it.
Rocky Stefano
I won't spend a dollar going to see a race where the cars sound like that. Call me old fashioned but I need to hear the rush of that engine zooming by, not the sound of a hummingbird.
blackslax
Better battery? Sure. Deep 6 the fan voted electricity bonus? Yup. But that's not really going to bring in paying fans. What this next generation sport needs is a next generation improvement. Something that's not allowed in F1; something that sets Formula E racing apart. I suggest dynamic spoilers. Spoilers that can change shape or move as needed while the car is in motion. Spoilers that will allow a car to take turns at unheard of speeds.
apprenticeearthwiz
OK it's a different format with restricted tracks but the performance improvements in Formula E have been far slower than they have for bikes in TTZero. The majority of teams and probably the governing body too, are still heavily invested in ICEVs. Maybe they're reluctant to let EVs outshine ICEVs just yet.