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When the next Formula E season begins this fall, the cars will be second-generation racers with enough battery power to complete an entire race. The new cars are some of the raciest and most exciting in motorsport today.

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Next-Generation Formula E Racer Is A Huge Step Forward

When the next Formula E season begins this fall, the cars will be second-generation racers with enough battery power to complete an entire race. The new cars are some of the raciest and most exciting in motorsport today.

Formula E is like the movie Rocky. At first, nobody wanted anything to do with it. The brainchild of Spanish race car driver Alejandro Agag, the idea was turned down by lots of people in racing circles before Jean Todt, the boss of the FIA, took a look and gave it his blessing — and the all-important FIA sanctioning any international race series needs to be successful.

Formula E second generation chassis

Formula E began as a spec-racing series in order to keep costs down and attract new teams. Everyone used the same chassis, same tires, same batteries, same transmissions, same motors, and same battery control systems. The series has gradually opened some of those areas up for innovation. One issue that has dogged the series is that the original 28 kWh batteries — supplied by Williams Engineering — were not powerful enough to complete an entire one-hour race. Drivers had to come into the pits during the race and switch to a second car.

Now that Formula E has become successful, it is ready to move on to a second-generation race car and it is light years ahead of the original. Where the first cars were a bit dowdy looking, the new cars are space age full zoot high tech racing machines. Best of all, they will come with a new 54 kWh battery sourced from McLaren Applied Technologies that will make those mid-race pit stops a thing of the past. The new chassis, built by Spark, will be unveiled March 6 at the Geneva motor show.

Two design features that stand out on the new car are new fairings for the front wheels to improve aerodynamics and a large diffuser at the rear that takes the place of the rear wing used by most other modern race cars. Formula E runs exclusively on street circuits, where speeds are lower than on traditional race tracks. As ArsTechnica explains, aerodynamic downforce is less of a priority in Formula E but efficiency is critical. Like all electric vehicles, the slipperier they are moving through the air, the less power they consume. Conserving battery power will likely become an important tactical concern when the new cars take to the track at the start of the fifth season this fall.

The February issue of Race Car Engineering has a comprehensive review of the aerodynamics of the new Formula E chassis. It’s fascinating reading and raises the possibility that Formula One might learn a few lessons from the upstart electric car racing series. Formula One has one pervasive failing — its focus on aerodynamic downforce makes passing on the track virtually impossible without artificial driver aids like drag reduction systems. Fans really enjoy seeing drivers pass, something that happens a lot in Formula E but only rarely in the senior series.

It’s not a stretch to imagine Formula E, with its emphasis on electric propulsion and non-stop action on the track, becoming more popular than Formula One in the next few years. It already has half the audience that Formula One does and these second generation cars should give the series a big boost in popularity.

 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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