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