Exciting times in Formula E as teams may now modify their powertrain and recently a new constructor signed up for season three. Looking at the current Formula E starting grid, apparently specialized technology companies and OEMs are keen to join to race for greener and smarter vehicles.
But it doesn’t go without a challenge as it is more difficult than it sounds to replace the season one powertrain with another package. The Andretti Formula E team experienced that. Despite the team’s tremendous effort to put a new powertrain in place for season two, they had only one choice when summer testing didn’t go as planned: reverting to the season one powertrain and to focus on making an impact in season three.
One of Andretti’s partners is TE Connectivity, known for smart connectivity technology. They find Formula E a perfect proving ground to develop new technologies. Not only technology firms have committed to the series as car manufacturers are rolling in too. “It’s all about fuel economy these days: alternative powertrains and lightweight vehicles,” said Alan Amici, VP Product Engineering at Automotive Americas during a seminar at Andretti’s workshop in Indianapolis where their Formula E test car in recognizable orange TE Connectivity livery shined behind him.
“In case of electric cars, the car manufacturers want to eliminate range anxiety so that you can do a round trip without worrying about charging stations. For now, that’s the new limit people have to deal with. TE offers high voltage electrical components with interesting solutions that are smaller and made from aluminium to reduce the weight. And what we learn from racing would end up in commercial vehicles”, he assured.
One of the key members of the Andretti Formula E outfit is team principal Roger Griffiths, also head of Andretti Technologies. He explained that innovation for electric vehicles is the fundamental aspect of the championship. “They’ve come with a roadmap and that is a key aspect in comparison with other race series. They have a plan for the next five to eight years. They want to focus on technology that is relevant for electric cars and they are also looking into aerodynamics, suspension systems and so on,” Griffiths said.
“It’s quite an aggressive path that requires technology out there trying to keep up the pace we are trying to do on the race tracks. It’s a great proving ground for new technology,” he continues. “And everybody talks about this trickle-down effective what you see in a racing car is maybe what you see in a road car. The reality of that is if you look at a Formula 1 car, there is not much relevant technology in the F1 car compared to what we have in a road car.”
“There is true relevant technology in a Formula E car that you might see one day in a Ford or Tesla or whoever, and because of that you see a tremendous interest from the OEMs.”
DS Citroën, Renault, Mahindra and more recently Jaguar Land Rover are the largest car constructors that have entered Formula E. But that’s just a start, Griffiths believes. “We’d expect that more OEMs are coming. They are looking very seriously at it. I think one of the reasons is that the budgets required – at least at this stage – are modest compared to Formula 1. Maybe with more OEMs that would start to increase. They see it as a real proving ground of their future electric powertrains. They can go out there, showcase their technology and maybe to make a difference on track.”
The Amlin Andretti Formula E Team competes in FIA Formula E Championship with drivers Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro this season.