The FIA have announced they will tender for single suppliers of both chassis and battery for season five of Formula E, in a move that negates their initial intention for open competition development. At present, manufacturers cannot develop bespoke chassis or battery items, however powertrain development has been allowed.

Lat Friday’s FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting confirmed that both batteries and chassis will remain single-make in season five.

In its WMSC statement the FIA said: “In accordance with the FIA Formula E Championship Technical Roadmap – the objective of which is for each driver to be able to complete the current race distance with the use of only one car – the Formula E Committee and the Electric and New Energy Championships Commission will proceed with two calls for tender. These are:

1) To identify a single provider for batteries from the fifth season onwards

2) To identify a single chassis supplier for the fifth season onwards.

The applicants will be presented for selection at the next World Motor Sport Council.”

While the FIA maintains the need for car’s to complete a pit-stop free race distance is a priority, there is no guarantee that a single supplier will provide the most effective route, but would fall in-line with keeping grids close and capping costs with more manufacturers joining the series.

That would certainly please China Racing boss Steven Lu, who last year stressed the need to control expenditure should Formula E become an open formula.

“We must discuss how we can keep the costs under control,” he told Autosport. “We must remember that we are not Formula 1.”

On the other hand, the successful battery supplier would have to keep up with varying powertrain technology; a feat that even Williams Advanced Engineering admits has been difficult, with cars already running beyond the originally specified performance parameters.

Conversely, the move could run the risk of countering Formula E’s relevance in the hybrid automotive industry when compared to the World Endurance championship – which sees four-wheel-drive technology, with energy harvesting off the front axle. What separates the two series though is that Le Mans prototypes don’t require as much energy density as power density and as such high-powered prototype batteries which require a lot of cooling.

There could be an array of factor behind the FIA’s move to curb development; pressure from teams, commercial interests etc. But as it inevitably find itself closer to centre stage and maintain manufacturer interest, it must ask himself whether it wants to remain to be a low-cost alternative to F1 or a poster child for carbon-neutral technological innovation?

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Motorsport reporter, digital producer and PR consultant. Co-founder of eRacing magazine. Having grown up in and around motorsport, one can always fall into the trap that everything was ‘bigger and brighter’ when you were younger. The recent surge in electric and hybrid racing (in sprint and endurance form) has led me to believe the best of motorsport is yet to come.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Stopping manufacturers and teams from developing their own battery chemistry negates the main purpose of the series (advancing electric vehicle technology). The one thing that holds electric vehicles from becoming practical and from being adopted by the mass market is range, which directly translates into battery technology. I don’t see the point of a series that will not significantly contribute to the main technological hurdle for mass adoption of electric vehicles. I think the FIA wants to stop formula-e from becoming more technologically relevant and more innovative than F1. Pretty sad to see how vested interests are trying to stifle the potential of a series that promised so much, but that, apparently, will now fail to deliver. My prediction is that this series will dwindle and die as it fails to attract manufactures and technological and engineering companies that could’ve used this series as a frequent test bed in a competitive environment for new battery chemistries. Very sad news.

  2. Well done Trent for taking a critical angle on this news – most of the other racing media are just reporting it without much critical analysis of the forces at work. I agree with that this is sad news, given that batteries are the key area for technological innovation in electric transport (perhaps along with their charging). Without its unique technology focus, public interest will likely decline, thus media rights sales and ultimately the funding. This does look like a political decision to clip the wings of Formula E compared to F1, but perhaps Trent can do a follow up investigating the evidence for this? What does Agag say about it? It was his baby, and he seemed genuinely motivated by the technological development aspect…

  3. Thank you guys. It’s a hard one. Speaking with Aguri Suzuki during season 1 he mentioned that battery technology is expanding at an exponential rate at Japanese universities, so teams alligning themselves to battery manufacturers just have to excercise prudence. There’s plenty of other restrictions you can place on batteries without impinging on competition.

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