In 2016, Spark Racing won back the tender to supply the chassis for cars participating in the FIA Formula E races. The company has recently provided images of a 2018 model of its FIA Formula E racer. The car looks splendid, and its battery capacity is twice that of the Formula E class today.
But it still baffles me why we do not see electric beasts packed with thousand-horsepower engines challenging the regular F1 cars for lap speed records.
The design of the 2018 Spark Racing’s formula E racer has a fabulous look about it (at least before the monochrome design is marred by sponsor logos and fancy colors). Its battery capacity has been increased two-fold (from 28 kWh to 54 kWh) which essentially means it can travel twice the distance covered by the current cars.
For those not in the know about Formula E, this is a series of races sanctioned by the FIA where about 20 drivers race on street circuits that are about 3.5 kilometers (2.1 miles) long. The competing cars are open-wheeling, rear-wheel machines that have a maximum power of 268 hp (200 kW). To complete the full race, drivers must recharge at the halfway stage. In 2018, the increase in the battery capacity will ensure that the cars complete the whole race without recharging.
There is also the awkward question of Fanboost, where fans and spectators vote in order to determine who the three most popular drivers are. These drivers are then given an additional power boost for the race.
At the moment, the event seems a bit odd. Whereas the cars are quite fast, going from zero to 62 miles per hour in about 3 seconds, their top speeds are capped at just 140 miles per hour (225 km/h). In addition, they make very little noise-producing only 80 decibels. This is close to the noise you would hear from standard diesel truck moving at 40 miles per hour (65 km/h) when it is 50 feet (15 meters) from you.
As a result, watching the races currently feels a little like watching a movie that has no soundtrack. This is a huge change from conventional car racing, even though the action comprises of chaotic racing at its very best.
When all is said and done, it is still not clear in my mind what this series is about, even though the new cars look fabulous with their extra-cool front wing that complements the wheel covers and their smooth aeros.
If the intention is to promote and develop electric cars, why is it restricted to such measly output figures? Formula one cars generate close to four times as much horsepower, and cranking it upwards towards the magic figure of 1000 hp should be child’s play using electric powertrain technology. By now electric cars should be tearing up the roads with their immense power potential, making a deafening roar like that of a jet plane when it is lifting off.
And why operate with such undersized battery packs? To encourage range anxiety? The 28 kWh battery pack in use today is 2 kWh less than the one used in a modest commuter like the Nissan Leaf SV. The entire series carries a hint of false constraint about it.
In my opinion, the two technologies should be allowed to compete with each other on a level playing field. In the world of motorcycles, electric motorbikes are tackling the well-known and scary Isle of Man TT course while traveling at average speeds that are only 10 miles per hour slower than the most powerful 1000 cc superbikes on the planet. It is even projected that they may overtake them when it comes to outright lap records before the year 2020.I wish I knew the actual status of the electric racing car at the moment.
On the other hand, perhaps the FIA knows where its best interests lie, and it is content with the chaotic, entertaining and close racing and a huge number of overtakes that is continuously being provided by the current format. In any event, at least the newly-designed formula E racing cars seem to be suited for the job.