What is Formula E? Everything you need to know about it and why it will change the world

Formula E is the electric future of car racing. When the international competition starts this September in Beijing it will usher in a new competitive platform that pushes electric car technology to another level.

In the same way that F1 tech filters down to road cars, developments in Formula E should speed up electric car development and uptake on the road.

From battery developments to quick charging improvements these cars will need to be the best they can be to win. The result is new discoveries from all the money invested in the sport.

Formula E car power

The Formula E cars might be electric but they still some of the fastest machines on the planet. This is an open championship, like Formula 1, that lets different manufacturers enter. But in the first year everyone will be provided with the Spark-Renault SRT_01E battery electric race car.

What that car offers is 200kw of power which is the equivalent to 270bhp when in Max Power mode. Max Power mode is only allowed in qualifying and practice sessions. During the races drivers are limited to Race Mode which is a power-saving output of 133kw, or 180bhp. This also features a Push-to-Pass burst of an extra 67kw. This is similar to the KERS burst system used in Formula 1 which should make for some interesting racing.

The car weighs in at just 800kg which includes the driver and 200kg worth of batteries. All this results in a 0-62mph time of 3 seconds and a maximum FIA limited speed of 225km/h which is 140mph. But these may still vary if the FIA decides to change its guidelines before the season starts.

The engine is called MGU which is made by McLaren. Cars are allowed a maximum of two MGU motors which can only be linked to the rear axle. So one for each rear wheel then.

Traction control is forbidden in Formula E.

Formula E car batteries

The batteries used in each car total a whopping 200kg, which is the FIA imposed limit. These are Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS) batteries which must all be certified to UN Transportation Standard.

The race should last around one hour with a pit stop mid-way to change cars. This will mean there is no need to change batteries during the race. There was a lot of talk about Qualcomm fast chargers being involved but in the first year this won't be a part of the race event. It should still be used for the track cars though.

Future events may involve fast chargers, or quick battery changes like Tesla has shown off in the past. These will be key to help developments that can be used in road cars where battery charging and changing is a big problem still.

Formula E car build

The cars come in at 1250mm in height, 5000mm long and 1800mm wide for a ride height of 75mm. Coupled with double steel wishbone suspension that's pushrod operated with twin dampers and torsion bars, it should make for a very controlled ride.

The car runs on bespoke 18-inch Michelin tyres for both wet and dry conditions.

Steering is handled by a non-assisted rack and pinion system. Brakes are two separate hydraulic systems operated by the one pedal. Electronics are McLaren made including the power supply management unit, CAN data acquisition pre-equipment, FIA Marshalling system and Beacon receiver.

The chassis is made of a carbon-aluminium honeycomb structure from Dallara. The front and rear wings are carbon as is the bodywork which is also made with Kevlar honeycomb. The gearbox is a paddle shift sequential unit.

Formula E race teams

For its first year Forumla E has a total of 10 teams taking part, each with two drivers. They are:

Amlin Aguri (UK) – Katherine Legge and Ant Felix da Costa

Andretti Autosport (US) – Franck Montagny and TBC

Audi Sport ABT (Germany) – Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt

China Racing (China) – TBC

Dragon Racing (US) – Mike Conway and TBC

E.Dams Renault (France) – Nicolas Prost and Sébastien Buemi

Mahindra Racing (India) – Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna

Trulli (Switzerland) – Jarno Trulli and Michela Cerruti

Venturi (Monaco) – Nick Heidfeld and Stéphane Serrazin

Virgin Racing (UK) – Jaime Alguersuari and Sam Bird

Forumla E race format

The Formula E format will be very similar to Formula 1. First will come the practice session where drivers will have up to two cars available to them to learn the track and machines. Next comes qualifying which will last 90-minutes where the drivers must set their fastest lap to determine their race-day start position.

Then comes the race day. It will have a standing start and should last for around one hour. Points will be awarded using the current standard FIA system with drivers who set the fastest lap being awarded two extra points.

Drivers will be required to take one pit stop during the race. They will simply need to change car during the stop meaning no quick battery changes and also no tyre changes for the entire race since the new car will have enough power and fresh tyres.

Push-to-Pass is the power boost system that gives drivers an extra a boost from 133kw (180bhp) to 200kw (270bhp). These will be limited to the same amount for every driver and can be used whenever they chose.

There will be 10 races in the season, one per month, set all over the world. The locations are, in order:

Beijing,  China.

Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Punta Del Este, Uraguay.

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Round 5 is TBA.

Miami, USA.

Long Beach, USA.

Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Berlin, Germany.

London, UK.

How to watch Formula E

When Formula E starts in September full coverage will be available internationally. In the UK it can be watched on ITV4 and ITV4 HD. There will also be coverage via ITV's online and mobile platforms including on demand services.

In the US Fox Sports will be covering the event. China has CCTV, Japan has TV Asahi.

READ: This is what a Formula E car sounds like: the future



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