Automotive

The future of electric racing: Spark's 2018 Formula E chassis

The future of electric racing:...
Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis is a looker, but why are these e-cars still so slow and restricted?
Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis is a looker, but why are these e-cars still so slow and restricted?
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Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: rear view
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Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: rear view
Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis is a looker, but why are these e-cars still so slow and restricted?
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Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis is a looker, but why are these e-cars still so slow and restricted?
Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: lightweight materials will help reduce the overall weight of the car while doubling the battery capacity
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Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: lightweight materials will help reduce the overall weight of the car while doubling the battery capacity
Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: aerodynamic side profile
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Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: aerodynamic side profile

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.

Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: aerodynamic side profile
Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: aerodynamic side profile

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.

Season 2 Race Recap: Buenos Aires Reprise - Formula E

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.

Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: rear view
Spark's 2018 Formula E electric race car chassis: rear view

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

8 comments
eric.verhulst@altreonic.com
I agree. Why keep it so tame? The challenge is actually not so much the torque, but the power needed. And that's where e-motors and batteries still need big improvements because the energy density is 10x less than fuel and you get thermal issues. A Tesla-S will more or less shut down half-way the track (when the pedal is pushed) because the batteries heat up too much. So, if Formula-1 is meant to improve car technology (which is only partly true) why not Formula-E? Or are they afraid that Formula-1 could loose its luster?
usugo
Dear Loz, I agree with you that formula E is kind of lame performance wise. Not sure, but I guess the idea is to have many restrictions to avoid escalating costs that would push anyone not being a big car maker out of the game. Beside, most races are hold in city centers and probably that is not really compatible with 1 MW cars racing each others (at least at reasonable costs). Then, if you can secure a Manor/Sauber kind of budget, I have a few ideas on how to take directly on F1 cars. cheers PS: you can guess who is writing the article just by the "style"! ;-)
VincentWolf
Monopolies die hard that's what's holding things up.
Daishi
I kind of agree with usugo that Formula E is trying to keep costs down for teams without large budgets and to keep the field competitive. Part of the point of racing though is to kind of push the boundaries of technology so they have to try to respect that need too. I hope to see them incrementally increase top speed and battery capacity limits each year so the series doesn't just become battery powered NASCAR.
Ed Llorca
Up to now FE has been a bit of a misfit. they claim they are green but then need to whole cars to finish a very very short race, wasteful to say the least. Tesla is already designed a quickly replaceable battery pack and the FE folks appear completely clueless on the topic. Second, the are quiet and slow, on TV t and more TV coverage.e cars sound downright whiny. Not terribly exciting. The racing is hard and close but that is not enough to make up the shortcomings. City tracks do engender much exposure to the casual fan but are not interesting to serious fans. Despite this persons opinion FE seems to be flourishing, I can't wait to see next year where they do away with the ridiculous car change, next step should be better tracks.
Future3000
I agree VincentWolf. If Formula E would restrict size, minimum weight of the car and size of tires only, batteries and e-motors were unrestricted , we have "Tesla S" in 3 years, 1.000 KW 4 WD, 5.000 km range, 15 minutes to recharge, 1/3 of it's price today... but who wants this really?
Bob
Big electric motors = very short range. Up the horsepower and they will spend more time recharging than racing.
Nygaard
As more and more people switch to electric power manufacturers will have less of an incentive to race combustion engines. There will be no point in putting R&D into racing and a majority of the tech will not be of much use to the street cars they sell.