The future of electric racing: Spark's 2018 Formula E chassis
After winning the tender back in 2016 to supply the chassis for all cars in the series, Spark Racing has delivered renders of its 2018 model FIA Formula E racer. The result is one fine looking car, with twice the battery capacity of the current Formula E class. But why aren't we seeing thousand-horsepower electric beasts out there challenging F1 for lap records?
Spark Racing's design is a heck of a looker – at least in this monochrome design before it gets covered in sponsor logos and flashy colours. But it'll also effectively go twice as far as the current Formula E field, with a two-fold increase in battery capacity from 28 kWh up to 54 kWh.
If you've missed the memo on Formula E, it's an FIA-sanctioned electric race series where up to 20 drivers compete on street circuits up to 2.1 miles (3.5 km) long. Cars are open-wheelers using rear wheel drive, with a maximum power of 200 kW (268 hp), and over the full race distance, drivers currently need to pull in for a rechange halfway through. The battery capacity increase should see cars going the distance for the entire race in 2018.
Then there's the embarrassing matter of Fanboost, in which fans and spectators vote for the three most popular drivers, and those guys get an extra power boost to use during the race.
It's kind of an odd spectacle at the moment. While the cars are very quick, with 0-100 km/h (62 mph) times around 3.0 seconds, top speeds are limited to just 225 km/h (140 mph), and they're quiet, too. At 80 decibels, they're about as loud as a regular diesel truck doing 65 km/h (40 mph) at a distance of 15 m (50 ft) from you.
So watching the races at the moment feels a bit like watching a movie with the soundtrack pulled out, which is a big change from traditional car races, even if the action is chaotic racing at its best.
At the end of the day, while the new cars look amazing, with their sleek aeros and super-cool front wing that blends into the wheel covers, I'm still not quite sure what this series is about.
If it's about promoting and developing electric performance cars, why is it limited to such meager output figures? Formula One cars make nearly four times the horsepower, and getting up towards that magical 1,000-hp figure should be a breeze with electric powertrain technology. Electric race cars should already be ripping up the roads with their massive power potential, and screaming like jet planes lifting off while they do it.
And why run with such tiny battery packs? To promote range anxiety? The current 28-kWh battery pack is 2 kWh shy of the humble Nissan Leaf SV commuter. The whole series has a whiff of artificial restriction about it.
Let 'em race, I say, let the two technologies punch it out on a playing field that's closer to level. In the motorcycle world, electric bikes are lapping the famous, terrifying Isle of Man TT course at average speeds just (16 km/h) 10 mph slower than the world's greatest gas powered, 1000cc superbikes – and threatening to overtake them for outright lap records before 2020. I'd love to know where the electric race car is really at right now.
Then again, maybe the FIA knows where its bread is buttered, and it's happy with the close, chaotic, entertaining racing and large number of overtakes the current format keeps delivering. Either way, at least the new Formula E cars look the part.
Source: Spark Racing