A great mix of teams is preparing for the inaugural event of the all-electric FIA Formula E Championship. Some have previous experience in Formula 1 or Indycar, others are rooted in the development of electric (performance) cars. One of the eye-catchers is the Andretti Autosport Formula E Team, one of the two American outfits daring to take up a challenge in a totally new championship.
ElectricAutosport.com talked to Roger Griffiths, Director of Motorsport Development at Andretti Autosport about the challenges the team faces: “Speaking about challenges, the biggest one was building the four cars while development was on going. From there we needed to work out how to operate the car: do you approach it as a conventional racing car or do you look at it in a different way?” he questioned.
Griffiths, a UK native but living in the US for 11 years, earned his master’s degree in Automotive Product Engineering at Cranfield Institute of Technology with a specialisation in Vehicle Modeling and Lap Simulation. Even with years of experience in motorsport, that specialisation might be from help with these brand new race cars on (mostly) new city centre tracks. “Unlike conventional racing cars you can’t do a quick fuel pit stop with two laps to go in case of a miscalculation. Now it is all about understanding how to manage the energy in the car. Without this, you risk parking alongside the track without juice.”
“So, understanding different electronic systems in the car is key for success,” he continued. But it’s not the only challenge. “When the boxes for transporting the cars and equipment arrived, it was a logistical challenge to pack everything. Working with completely new cars and a new team of people makes it an engineering and personal challenge too.”
But what made Andretti Autosport enter Formula E in the first place? “There are certain parallels because the Indy 500 is about innovation and now we got innovation with electric vehicles,” Griffith said. “What we will be seeing over the next two or three years is the development of these cars. Not only the increase of performance in outright speed, but we can expect an increase of range too. This will be exciting and the technological challenge is one of the reasons we got involved in Formula E.”
Sustainable racing is not particularly a buzzword in the United States. But Griffiths foresees a change: “The American public is using smaller cars and in some areas, like Los Angeles, there is a great interest in electric vehicles.”
Andretti presents itself as a pioneer in racing. “It was the first American team to put their name in the ring for Formula E. And that is a big statement. We’ve got a lot to learn, but every time we come and run the cars, every aspect is taken a step forward. We will perform well in Beijing,” Griffiths concludes.