2016 has been a great year for electric racing as car manufacturers are clearly shifting their activities towards sustainable racing. Can we call it a breakthrough? You can judge, but only time can tell if 2016 or 2017 will be defined as the year of the breakthrough of electric racing.
Much has happened in the world of Formula E with most notably the involvement of car manufacturers. Most teams are fully backed by a manufacturer or receive support which is exactly what the series initially hoped to achieve at the start of the third season. Top brands like Renault, Audi, BMW and Jaguar are battling against the likes of startup automotive companies NextEV and Faraday Future. Meanwhile other brands are knocking at the door to enter. Are they too late?! Despite the calendar hasn’t been consistent over the first years, co-founder Alejandro Agag managed to schedule a race in New York City in 2017. Which is an impressive milestone. It’s Formula E’s task to maintain top level racing with the manufactures and drivers, but also to keep notable cities on board. If that works, the championship might make a solid step forward towards season five, when the drivers need just one car to complete the race.
If you must pick one electric road car to race with, it’s likely the Tesla Model S. Electric GT Championship is setting up a series consisting of 20 equal Tesla Model S P100D. Twenty drivers must race in the championship that should start in 2017. With the calendar expected to be released soon and the subscription for teams has opened, it’s a matter of time before announcements will be made. There are a few battles to be won however, racing at permanent tracks might only work while cooperating with existing events and only star drivers and teams might attract the media attention they deserve. 2017 will be an important year to leave the desired impression.
What started as a project to challenge a student competition in 2008, these Dutch students have developed its seventh hydrogen fuel cell race car. It’s the first vehicle that is capable of racing against fossil fuel powered competitors, which will be a world’s first if they succeed. First, the team will complete an extensive test programme before the LMP3 based racer will be released between its rivals. Judgement day has been scheduled for the first weekend of August at the Dutch TT Circuit Assen, to race in front of nearly 100,000 spectators.
Little is known about how this championship will exactly look like and not much can be imagined as it cannot be compared with anything else. In 2017 we will see large developments of Roborace, which would become world’s first championship with autonomous electric vehicles. While partnering the FIA Formula E Championship, it provides a suitable platform to showcase autonomous technologies. While testing is underway, it might be a matter of time before tech giants are announced as partners or teams. If that happens, there is only one question mark: how will the public react? Are they able to explain its purpose to motorsports fans?
After the more formal launch in 2015, last year has passed a bit more quietly. 80 Day Race is a worldwide competition in which 42.000 km must be completed solely with vehicles that don’t consume fossil fuel. It would be a race in which constructors are able to showcase the capabilities of their electric vehicles on public roads. Paris has been announced as a start and finish location and it was promising to see that ACO President Pierre Fillon, the man behind the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, has become one of the many ambassadors. Also, 80 Day Race has secured National Geographic Channel as a broadcasting partner which should also open doors to other host cities and potential teams. 2017 must be marked with milestones to stay on course for the launch of a promising first edition.