Monday, July 28, 2014

Formula E

With our visit to Norton being cut short and disappointing, we stopped at the Donington circuit just up the road. What a good decision that was! The security guard let us in, free of charge, and directed us to the best part of the circuit where electric cars were racing…! Electric cars? Racing? I assumed they were racing remote controlled model cars. They weren't. Welcome to Formula1 of the future!

Formula E is here and we witnessed pre-race testing. The official first race is going to be in 65 days of writing, but we have already seen it! I for one will be following this with keen interest. To me racing improves the breed, it helps the development of cars and motorcycles of the future. As even the most stubborn petrol head will have to admit, we can't keep burning fossil fuels for ever. They will run out and we do have a pollution problem. Bring on the emission-less vehicle, bring on Formula E.

Quite a few ex Formula 1 race drivers were behind the wheel of these electrically propelled machines. We were quite surprised with the speed. Not only are they fast, seriously fast, they also make quite a bit of noise too. According to official figures a Formula E at full speed will produce around 80db, compared to 70db for a normal passenger car. That is at high speed. The sound is a bit like a jet plane and a high pitch whine. At slow speed they are almost silent, which is why an artificial sound will be made in the pits so that the mechanics and officials can hear them coming. Officially it wasn't a race but final testing. In reality it was full on racing to determine where each team was compared to the competition. As you can see in the photos, they went right to the edge.

The Formula E cars are all made by Renault. The Spark-Renault SRT_01E is the first car to be homologated by the FIA. This first generation already has the equivalent of 270 bhp which will get them from 0-100 km/hr in 3 seconds…! Top speed is 225 km/h. Impressive as these figures are, there is more possible than that as both bhp and top speed have been limited by the FIA. The cars look like pretty standard Formula 1 cars, which is hardly surprising as years of aerodynamical testing has given the F1 cars the shape they have now. Yet I wondered about the weight. Surely batteries must make them heavy to say the least, after all they run on batteries and the more power you'll use the more batteries you need. Yet the battery weighs about 200 kg and the total car including driver 800 kg.

What I haven't been able to find anywhere on the official website is the recharge time for the batteries, according to the commentator at Donington an empty pack could fully recharged in an hour…! Now we're talking. If this could be achieved with normal electric cars and motorcycles too then the market would open for sure.

Being here at this historical moment; the final test before the Formula E championship starts was amazing. Like we had been given a glimpse into the future. Filling up the bikes somewhat later for US$ 2.40 a litre(!) I wish we could ride electric motorcycles tomorrow.