Electric racing debuts this weekend; why you should care

5 minute read

Electric Racing: Formula-E

I know what you’re thinking. This is an urban mobility / sustainability focused blog, why is there a racing story here? Well, I did warn you, and I will owe you a story in the future about the benefits of racing in general to mobility technology, but take this a case study of racing’s technology transfer and public engagement at its finest. I am talking about Formula-E, the first ever all electric racing series with real drivers and very real electronic technology delivering 150 kW (202.5 hp) in an 888 kg  (1958 lbs) single-seat package. While the power to weight ratio is low compared to other racing series, the advantage of electric motors is their maximum torque at zero motor speed, delivering instantaneous acceleration from a deadstop, propelling a formula-e car to 60 mph in 3 seconds, or half the time that you read this sentence. Big time names like Qualcomm , DHL , Michelin , Renault , and Tag Heuer have joined the development of the series while racing suppliers from the UK - McLaren and Williams provide the complex motor control electronics and battery technology to power the Dallara produced cars.

Drive the Future [youtube id=”qiIarZ9oUTw&list=UU-DuRqsBQOEk_5o1q4Ze-Fg” align=”center” mode=”lazyload” autoplay=”no” aspect_ratio=”16:9”]

The Ten Round Championship consists of 9 named city centers and 1 as-of-now-yet-to-be named location:

1: Beijing, China, Sept. 13, 2014 2: Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 22, 2014 3: Punta del Este, Uruguay, Dec. 13, 2014 4: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan. 10, 2015 5: TBA*, Feb. 14, 2015 6: Miami, Fla., March 14, 2015 7: Long Beach, Calif., April 4, 2015 8: Monte Carlo, Monaco, May 9, 2015 9: Berlin, Germany, May 30, 2015 10: London, England, June 27, 2015

*(said to be between Atlanta [Editor: I really hope so], Vancouver, or Mexico City)

[caption id=”attachment_221” align=”aligncenter” width=”990”]Electric Formula E Racing Calendar 2014-2015 Formula E Racing Calendar (source: fiaformulae.com)[/caption]

Electric Racing in Metro Centers

Let’s take a look at the Metros that Formula E is hosting this inaugural season by income per capita and population density to get a sense for the areas where this technology will be seen first.

[iframe width="800" height="600" frameborder="0" seamless="seamless" scrolling="no" src="https://plot.ly/~ClosedLoop/24/800/600"]

While Carbon Emissions or Per Capita Energy Use proved difficult to obtain outside of the U.S., the below chart from the UNDP Human Development Report from '07 (via WithoutHotAir.Com) shows the general trend of increasing GDP and energy consumption country wide across the globe.

[caption id=”attachment_220” align=”aligncenter” width=”646”]Power Consumed vs. GDP Power Consumed vs. GDP (from 2007 UNDP Human Development Report produced by withouthotair.com)[/caption]

As part of the larger story of Formula E, how can many of the growing economies that Formula E visits improve their standard of living without raising their power consumption? How about reducing the power consumption of current economic powerhouses without pushing lower income groups out of their metropolitan areas like previous generations of planned and unplanned gentrification?

Turns out, Formula-E hired Ernst and Young to determine Formula E’s overall effect on the EV marketplace and its impact on the cities it visits: Formula E Value Creation

The highlights include Formula E significantly contributing to removing the market barriers towards EVs to generate:

  • €142 billion in extra world sales
  • 52-77 million EVs sold around the world over 25 years
  • 42,000 permanent jobs
  • €25 billion savings in healthcare costs from productivity from pollution reduction and significant quality of life improvement in cities


  • $10 million / race weekend spent in local area by visitors
  • 240 temporary jobs / race weekend

While the underlying assumption are unfortunately hidden behind the study, the overall benefit toward EV promotion will be large from these races in city centers. Along this train of thought, Formula-E’s biggest contribution will start with education and the development of infrastructure and technology that will be proudly displayed throughout the race weekends both in the propulsion / regeneration and charging. Take a look below about the Formula E’s link to roadcars and on wireless charging (including what they plan to do following each race weekend):

[youtube id="J2uKRB0HwkE&list=UU-DuRqsBQOEk_5o1q4Ze-Fg" align="center" mode="lazyload" autoplay="no" aspect_ratio="16:9"]

[youtube id="eIGEOWpFZa4&list=UU-DuRqsBQOEk_5o1q4Ze-Fg" align="center" mode="lazyload" autoplay="no" aspect_ratio="16:9"]

[caption id=”attachment_225” align=”aligncenter” width=”990”]Electric Formula E Diagram Click on the image to head to Formula-E’s website to look at each of the components[/caption]

Anatomy of Formula E:

With 45 minute races and the battery capacity limited (for now) to deliver 25 minutes of electric charge, drivers will be swapping cars mid-race in a timed process, not unlike racing back in the day when many championships around the world still permitted car swapping in the event of a crash or mechanical issue. As you heard above, soon the series hopes to employ a wireless charging system not unlike the work being researched at ORNL to re-energize depleted batteries without a physical connection.

[youtube id="GBmAUilQAl8" align="center" mode="lazyload" autoplay="no" aspect_ratio="16:9"]

This video below gives a good explanation of the progress Formula E has taken to get to this point with surely more in development as they look to open the car design up past this initial year to bring in new interests and live up to its development goals.

 [youtube id="BS1ZP1I_9xM&list=UU-DuRqsBQOEk_5o1q4Ze-Fg" align="center" mode="lazyload" autoplay="no" aspect_ratio="16:9"]

[caption id=”attachment_223” align=”aligncenter” width=”800”]Electric racing debuts this weekend at the Bird Nest in Beijing Electric racing debuts this weekend at a memorable venue - 2008’s Olympic Host Site: The Bird’s Nest in Beijing[/caption]

This Weekend in Beijing

As announced earlier this week, here in the States, Fox Sports 1 will be delivering live-coverage from Beijing at 3:30 am et / 12:30 am pt Saturday morning (3:30 pm local time) with a re-air during NFL coverage on Sunday the 14th at 1 pm et / 10 am pt. For practice and qualifying, you can follow @FIAFormulaE for practice and qualifying starting at 8:15 pm et Friday Night as well as the various Formula E teams competing.

Stay tuned throughout the weekend with us @ClosedLoopUS for updates on the race weekend as we try to highlight the sustainable benefits this new series will bring. As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this story.

Leave your thoughts below on the response you think Formula E will get at these large venues and some of the uses cities will have from the left behind charging stations following race weekends. What do you think?