Not everyone gets as excited for Formula 1 in the same way I do, but personally, the thrill of watching people put their lives on the line to race some of the fastest track cars in the world is difficult to put into words; to go watch it live is even better.
I’m a huge fan of Formula 1, but I also have a passion for sustainability and environmental protection. It’s difficult for me to sit down for 21 weekends every year to watch 20 people drive around a circuit very quickly without feeling guilty for the emissions released into the atmosphere from the burning of fuel and the amount of rubber used across the three days of racing. Even in the hybrid era, there is still a huge carbon footprint following F1 cars and teams around the world.
There is a new and emerging form of motorsport, however. Formula E races electric vehicles on city street tracks in a number of countries around the world, there are small differences in the rules and the cars look a lot more futuristic than their F1 counterparts – if you haven’t watched it and you’re a fan of racing it’s well worth a watch!
How Formula E Cars Work
There are a number of differences between Formula 1 and Formula E cars and how they work. The biggest differences being the new electric engines and the futuristic design but there are smaller, more subtle differences.
The batteries provide electrical current to the motor that drives the wheels. They provide 200kW of power for the majority of the race but can be opened up to provide drivers with 250kW of power – that equates to a 0-100km/h time of just 2.8 seconds. The maximum weight of the cars, including the driver, is 900kg with the battery making up 385kg of that. The maximum speed of the electric cars is 280km/h (174mph) so they are slightly slower than F1 cars, however.
Another aspect that differs to F1 is the use of only one tyre for the race and qualifying. Teams don’t change tyres during the race either and it’s the same regardless of the weather. Michelin specially developed these tyres to ensure that they wouldn’t need to be changed (unless punctured) during a race to help make the sport that little bit more sustainable.
There are a number of big names racing in Formula E now too. Recent F1 drivers like Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne and Pascal Wehrlein all drive in the new motorsport, joining other famous names like Jean-Eric Vergne and Sebastien Buemi.
Formula E Calendar
In Formula E there are only 13 races in the season, taking place in 12 different countries and 5 different continents (New York gets raced twice on the last weekend). The season begins in Ad Diriyah in Saudi Arabia before visiting Marrakesh (Morocco), Santiago (Chile) and Mexico City (Mexico).
The championship then travels to Asia with races in Hong Kong and Sanya (China) before heading to Europe for five races. The city streets of Rome, Paris, the legendary Monaco, Berlin and Bern (Switzerland) are all closed off to Formula E before the last two races of the season take place in New York in mid-July.
The whole calendar is planned to reduce travel as much as possible. Whilst teams do accumulate thousands of miles transporting the cars between races, there is a logic in it as races start in Saudi Arabia and move anti-clockwise around the world before finishing in New York.
Creating a Sustainable Sport
Sustainability plays a huge role in Formula E, which, given that it’s racing electric vehicles through city streets, is perhaps no surprise. Organisers have gone to great lengths in reducing the carbon footprint of the sport, including scheduling races in an optimal order that reduces flights,
In true sustainability fashion, organisers carried out a life cycle assessment of the fourth season of Formula E. The image below is a breakdown of where the emissions come from
Electric engines and using only one set of tyres cut down dramatically on emissions and the sport’s carbon footprint. The optimisation of the race calendar reduces emissions from freight. Racing on city streets means there is very little additional infrastructure needing to be built whilst making it much easier for spectators to visit events and use public transport to get around.
In preparation for the 5th season of Formula E, organisers will be considering the development of the cars and the batteries within the life cycle assessment. It will be interesting to see how that fits in with the assessment.
Is Formula E the Future of Motorsport?
It’s likely that not everyone will see Formula E as the future of motorsport. The noise of an F1 engine is almost iconic and part of the reason so many love the sport. When the loud V8 engines were scrapped for quieter hybrid engines the FIA encouraged teams to install parts that would ensure that the cars made more noise when racing. If you’ve ever heard a Formula E car you’ll know that they just don’t sound the same…
Whilst it may not have the noises or the smells of Formula 1, Formula E is pushing to create a sustainable form of motorsport that people all over the world can enjoy. It’s only in its 5th season but is still adding race events to the calendar with London signing up for a race in 2020. The die-hard F1 fans may not yet be on board but the traditional sport could soon be making room for the more environmentally-friendly Formula E.
Today, the Formula E cars will take to the Parisian streets for the 8th race of the season – will we see an 8th different winner?