A tough season in Formula E ends with a hard decision that was taken by the company recently: Venturi Automobiles suspends its electric sports car activities in order to fully focus on high performance powertrains and competitions. ElectricAutosport.com spoke with Venturi’s Nicolas Mauduit about the decisions that have been taken and compiled an overview of activities and outlook of their second season in Formula E.
Venturi Automobiles has made a name for itself over the past ten years with building powerful electric sports cars, setting records and undertaking challenging expeditions. The Monaco-based squad was one of the first firms who came in contact with the Formula E organiser Alejandro Agag when asked to get involved. As an expert in high-performance electric powertrains, Venturi was eager to join, to showcase its knowledge to the world at a time that e-mobility started to evolve. And at exactly this moment a tough decision had to be taken. How to compete with the rest of the world? Venturi answered that question and goes back to its roots: building powerful powertrains for competition like Formula E and pursuing a few specialised projects. The sports car programme has been suspended and as a result, some jobs are lost.
“For our company it was a tough decision to narrow our main activities to three: running the Formula E team, to become a manufacturer in Formula E and to focus on high performance development including the world speed record programme we have each year in August,” Nicolas Mauduit, CTO of Venturi Automobiles and Team Principal and CTO at Venturi Formula E Team told ElectricAutosport.com.
With large manufacturers entering the market of electric vehicles, Mauduit explained that it is difficult to maintain the development of road cars. “It’s costly to develop the road cars, to train the engineers and to sell the vehicles. With larger players on the market with different kind of pricing it became more difficult for us to be profitable. Therefore we’ve taken the decision to focus on our expertise and that is in the field of high performance powertrains with high efficiency. And that makes sense with competition too. It has been a very difficult decision to take regarding the employees and their families, but it is important to secure the company’s long-term future.”
ElectricAutosport.com visited Venturi’s headquarters and workshop in Monaco for an exclusive tour behind the scenes to have a look at their main activities. The offices are located at the 11th floor of the Gildo Pallanca Pastor building which hosts several multinationals. The large white room is dominated by desks, technology and memories of the Pallanca Pastor’s racing heritage, including certificates of several FIA speed records.
Venturi Automobiles holds the record of the fastest electric vehicle on Earth, achieving 495 km/h in 2010. After a troubled 2015 run due to bad weather, this year’s target is to reach 600 km/h. “We’ve gathered a lot of data concerning the aerodynamic stability, the battery and its cooling system last year. These elements are crucial for success; to reach 600 kilometres per hour,” pilot Roger Schroer told ElectricAutosport.com in an exclusive interview in March. He revealed the ultimate goal. “We want to be part of the 400 mph club (634.74 km/h), so in 2016 we would like to go close to 700 km/h.”
The Venturi VBB3 won’t be found in their workshops that are located on the ground floor of the facility. The project of the 3000 hp strong vehicle is carried out in partnership with the Ohio State University in the United States of America.
There are various smaller workshops in which the vehicle’s components are designed and tested, like the impressive T-shaped battery pack of the 407 hp strong Venturi America sports car (see photo). The America has been produced in limited edition and was fully customizable by its buyers.
A larger workshop is just around the corner where the orange Venturi America was being serviced and an extraordinary caterpillar vehicle was catching attention. It appeared to be the Venturi Antarctica, a specialised project suggested by Prince Albert II of Monaco. After thorough feasibility studies and first outdoor testing, the eight-wheel drive electric vehicle is intended for scientific missions and follows the specifications provided by the French Polar Institute (IPEV). It is intended to drive the final eight to ten kilometres towards the research area or sample source without polluting. And therefore and it won’t, for example, contaminate the collected samples.
Next to that, Formula E will receive a fair share of attention. The four vehicle’s are based at Formula E’s the technical headquarters at Donington Park, which hosts the workshops of the ten teams as well. At Venturi, the engineers are working on the powertrain of the fifth chassis, which is the development vehicle. From season two, the team from Monaco is one of the eight constructors allowed to modify the systems under the hood, like the electric motor and inverter.
Formula E season 2: reliability
As the battery will remain the same for all the teams next season, Venturi focuses on other aspects. “We have developed electric motors for many years and we always focus on efficiency and the systems’ integration. So far we are very satisfied with the results during the first track tests. We even pushed a bit,” smiled Mauduit.
Mauduit expects four or five different powertrain architectures among the constructors and that it remains the question if the all new packages will be reliable. Mauduit: “We think reliability will be key for success. If you miss out scoring points in the first couple of races due to unreliability issues, you can’t compete for the championship win. We are working very hard on reliability.”
In the foreseeable future even the battery will be open for development. “It’s something we are already experienced in. We know what needs to be done and you will at least need 15 to 16 months to build a completely new battery pack. So we, as teams and the organisation, need to fine tune the rules of the game and then we need to push for this kind of development,” explained Mauduit.
With the development of a new powertrain and running other programmes next to Formula E, Venturi Automobiles pushes the development of high performance and high efficient powertrains in a short amount of time. Mauduit: “It’s tricky regarding the limited amount of time, but that’s all part of the game. And that is really enjoyable.”
You also might be interested in this exclusive: Venturi’s engineer Eric Prada talking about EV technology.