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(Pocket-lint) - Formula E is billed as the electric future of car racing. 

The premise behind the series is not only that the cars are fully electric, but that the 12 teams, each with two drivers, compete in identically set-up, electric battery-powered race cars.

What’s different about Formula E compared to Formula 1?

Let’s be honest. F1 is the biggest ‘Formula’ (or type) of racing out there. And Formula E - around since 2014 - can’t yet compete in terms of size, sponsorship or exhilaration. But that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it, or that it’s not exciting.

That's primarily because Formula E races take place on tight street circuits in cities like New York, Paris, Rome, Zurich and Hong Kong.

Formula E drivers all race in the same cars, with the same battery packs and tyres – so the racing is much closer and more competitive than F1. That competitiveness and the tight circuits mean the racing is fun – there are regular crashes – and each race tends to generate different pole-sitters and podium finishers.

What’s more, if you’re bored of the never-ending race weekends and expensive entry fees of F1, Formula E completes its races in one hit – practice, qualifying, the so-called ‘super-pole’ and the race all take place on one day.

You can get surprisingly close to the action, too and even get involved; there are several interactive aspects of Formula E – such as fanboost – where you vote for your favourite driver online and they can get a five-second power boost.

In Attack Mode, drivers have to arm their car and then, when they drive through a specific Activation Zone on track they will get an extra 35kW of power to give them a boost for a few laps. 

What are Formula E cars like?

Every team in Formula E gets the same car. They don’t look the same, because each team has its own livery and sponsors, but the base machine underneath is the same.

Looking to the untrained eye like any open-cockpit, open-wheeled ‘Formula’ racing car, the main difference in a Formula E car is that the car is powered by two electric motors supplied by a battery in the middle.

You’ll no doubt be worried that you’ll miss the amazing, screaming engine sound of a Fomula 1 car if you’re a regular race-goer. But we've attended races and have been happily surprised by just how much noise the Formula E machines make.

Creating 80 dB of noise from their electric motors, the space-ship like whine of today’s Formula E cars is hardly silent. Meanwhile, those tight street circuits mean you hear all manner of brake and tyre squeals as drivers hurl the cars around corners at scarcely credible speeds.

What’s changed about the cars?

In 2018, Formula E moved to a new type of car, bringing changes in tactics and racing. Power went up – from 200 kW in qualifying to 250 kW. And in the race, from 180 kW to 200 kW. So the racing got faster. 

But the big news, other than the look, is that the car got a much bigger battery with a switch of powertrain manufacturer, to McLaren.

The battery jumped from 32 kWh to 54 kWh. That no longer meant drivers each needed to use two totally different cars because of the limited range of the battery.

Yep, that's right - in the first four seasons of Formula E drivers needed to swap cars halfway through the race. This is no longer the case.

Now though, there's going to be an improved type of car for 2022 even if we don't know all the ins and outs as yet. The design of these cars will be more 'open-wheel' like F1 cars. The power will rise significantly - 350 kW in qualifying and 300 kW in the race.

Flash charging tech will also be employed for the battery meaning that charging at a pitstop will be possible at up to 800kW. F1 team Williams will supply the batteries for the series. 

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Formula E points and teams

Formula E follows the same points system as other race series – it’s governed and run by the motor racing’s official body, the FIA – after all. The winner of the race gets 25 pts, second gets 18 pts and third gets 15. The top ten finishers all receive points, with tenth place getting just 1 point.

The teams have changed over the years of Formula E. Ten teams race in total, each having two drivers. There are independent and family race teams you might not have heard of – like Techeetah and Andretti.

In terms of big manufacturers, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, BMW and Nissan are all involved with Formula E teams. 

How to watch Formula E

Tickets for Formula E race days cost around €55 to sit in the grandstand, but sometimes you can choose to watch the race at other spots around the track for free.

Tickets are available via the dedicated Formula E ticket portal. One of the major benefits, if you’re city-bound, is being able to walk or take public transport to the race – no queueing for four hours to get into and out of a muddy field in Silverstone.

Formula E is televised too, and in the UK is shown mostly on Eurosport, though the UK race in 2021 is on Channel 4 live. You can also see Practice and Qualifying via Facebook and YouTube. 

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In the US, Formula E airs on Fox and Fox Sports. Germany and France have Eurosport, and in France it also airs on Canal+ and C8.

Writing by Joe Simpson and Dan Grabham.