Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag and team have defied the odds by starting up a completely new electric racing series from the ground up that is doing much more than just entertaining fans — it has crafted an entire ecosystem geared at catalyzing the shift from petroleum-powered transportation to electric-powered propulsion.
Upon arriving at the race, business leaders, innovative companies, fans, and the media are overcome with a sense of anticipation. The eager anticipation of the birth of the new electric vehicle industry is hot and heavy in the air as innovators weave their way through the crowds with purpose. On to the next meeting with a potential investor, partner, or customer — everyone seems to have the same focus, which is to move electric vehicles forward.
The race is the nucleus of the effort, with hundreds of companies working to craft the fastest, lightest electric race car that will compete against rival automotive and technology companies. Battery manufacturers, sensor experts, and of course automotive companies have all presented their most innovative products and experts to move the cause forward. The fruits of their labors are sent out into battle for the glory.
Likeminded companies seeking to push the innovative envelope forward have taken up the call and charged into battle with their best products and people. Harman Kardon* has brought its mastery of all things audio into its partnership with BMWi and the Andretti Formula E team, offering a full suite of technologies.
There are obvious applications of in-car audio for the driver, team communications, and entertainment, but it goes beyond that. Harman Kardon is exploring new applications of its technologies with Formula E in areas like developing durable new materials that will hold up better to the rigors of racing, improving product efficiency in a race where every milliamp-hour counts, and cutting weight from products to minimize the weight burden they add to onboard communications equipment and to the crew.
Looking beyond products, Harman Kardon sees Formula E as a giant incubator for businesses looking to move into the electric vehicle technology space and to meet up with current and potential partners. Harman Kardon has partnerships with 34 automakers that use products from the wide range of Harman Kardon’s brands to add just the right audio experience to their vehicles.
Harman’s car audio play has increased in recent years as premium vehicle manufacturers have added its active noise-cancelling technology, which can reduce or even eliminate road noise coming from a vehicle. In the case of SUVs, which suffer from more road noise than normal due to the inherent vehicle design, noise-cancelling technology is really a game changer.
Electric vehicles are also adding new product channels for Harman due to the recent US regulation that requires all electric vehicles to come equipped with external audible alerts to notify nearby pedestrians of the approaching vehicle. On the flipside of the silent electric vehicle experience that many crave are those looking to synthesize the sound of a powerful engine under the hood to quell the calls from gearheads for the audible rumble of an internal combustion engine.
In the first 3 years of Formula E, the pace of innovation we have seen has been impressive, but all signs point to even more innovation in the future as companies pivot the core of their businesses from internal combustion to superior electric drivetrains. As we move beyond the transition period, more money and more research will be thrown into the mix — and, in earnest, Formula E development will define the future of electric vehicles. Those companies that have moved into the space already have the jump on the competition and will probably be rewarded for their early moves — rewarded with market share and loyalty from partners who have grown with them through the learning pains.
*Disclaimer: Harman Kardon paid for travel and accommodations for CleanTechnica to attend the Formula E in New York City.