Drivers, start your batteries: electric cars to race

Sep 13, 2012 by Sebastian Smith
Motor racing is set for an electric makeover that will see a new generation of green cars speeding at 220 kmh (138 mph) around urban racetracks—at least until their batteries run out. Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings, pictured in 2011,says the global championship, which has been authorized by motorsport's governing body will help finally make electric cars popular.

Motor racing is set for an electric makeover that will see a new generation of green cars speeding at 220 kmh (138 mph) around urban racetracks—at least until their batteries run out.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings, says the global championship, which has been authorized by motorsport's governing body the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, will help finally make popular.

"That is one of our main objectives: to change perceptions of people about electric cars if we manage to have a championship that is sexy, that people like, that they see people racing without breaking down," he told AFP.

Formula E is planned to start in 2014 with 10 races staged worldwide between about May and November.

Organizers hope for all the races to take place in city centers, potentially stretching from European capitals like Paris, London and Rome to more far-flung locales like Moscow, Beijing, Sydney and even Morocco's ancient city of Marrakech.

is the first city to come on board.

New York is another priority, although no formal talks have been held, and several other US cities could be involved, including Los Angeles, said Agag, who spoke to AFP in New York on Wednesday.

"We want this to have quite a strong American DNA, because (despite) what everyone says, innovation is still here in America. America is the home of innovation."

Agag said he wants races inside cities partly for the spectacle and partly to exploit what he says is a major advantage of the electric cars over 's scream machines: relative quiet.

"We have noise, but it's a very moderate noise. The spectators will still have the emotion of watching the race with that noise there..., but you won't hear that noise up to one mile from the track.

"So it's ideal for city centers, where is a very serious problem," Agag said.

The big unknown is whether racing fans—who generally thrive on Formula One's extremes of speed and noise—will embrace Formula E.

The prototype vehicle developed by France's Formulec has a maximum speed of 220 kmh and accelerates from zero to 100 kmh in three seconds.

That's not quite as fast as the monstrous Formula One cars, which can hit 100 kmh in less than two seconds.

The most crucial statistic, though, is battery life: 25 minutes.

That means that instead of Formula One's pit stop ballet of tire changes, Formula E drivers will change batteries. Or, rather, they'll hop out of their cars half way into the one-hour race and get into other ones.

To make things more interesting, the second car will be waiting 100 meters (328 feet) away.

"The drivers will have to race. It will be very spectacular on television," Agag said.

Tire changes, which Agag criticized as environmentally unfriendly, won't take place at all.

At the end of 10 races there'll be a champion, while each race winner stands to get about 400,000 euros ($516,000) in prize money.

Agag says he hopes traditional racing teams—McLaren has already expressed interest—will be joined by big brands like Google or Coca-Cola, as well as electric car companies, in creating the 10 teams.

"It's a great occasion for companies to put their money where their mouth is. Many companies speak about environment, the problems of sustainability. This is a very good opportunity to show their commitment," he said.

The broader impact, Agag hopes, will go far beyond the race track. Ordinary drivers who are still unconvinced by the emerging technology will see "that electric cars are a valid option for their daily lives."

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User comments : 8

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Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2012
To make things more interesting, the second car will be waiting 100 meters (328 feet) away. "The drivers will have to race. It will be very spectacular on television," Agag said.


I say.

And I propose they play the Yakety Sax to it.

There's going to be very little difference between the cars because electric motors are already about as good as they get, and the teams won't have the push to really improve on the batteries which is done elsewhere. Maybe the mad 100 meter dash will be the most interesting part of the race, and highlight the inconvenience of hauling a 1000 kilo battery in a race car.
sennekuyl
not rated yet Sep 13, 2012
It would have been more interesting to include fast battery changes. That way a tech can be expanded upon. Not sure that people would need to be involved though.
_ucci_oo
5 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2012
"because electric motors are already about as good as they get,"
That would be a big NO.The Japanese are almost ready with a perm mag motor that doesn't use rare earth magnets, I won't go into that. New Ideas and technology to come yet, it'll be fast and furious, look at the tesla (http://www.teslamotors.com) as a road car and think what would happen if people put together a car for whatever race purpose, formula, stock car, drag racing. Whatever they want.
Electric racing sounds like a great idea, look at the early history of autos and planes, races built their popularity to coax people out of the technological dark.
I need a job in something as interesting as this.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2012
There are other racing events where all drivers have the same technology - and which are still exciting to watch.

And with battery tech you could put all kinds of neat gadgets on the cars that could turn this into a very specator-worthy event (e.g. cars that change colour depending on how fast they are or how hard they accelerate/decelerate.)

HarshMistress
not rated yet Sep 14, 2012
AFAK, we already have the winner: http://www.rimac-...bili.com

Acceleration 0-100 kph: 2.8 sec.
Top speed: 305 kph.
Range: 600 km.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 14, 2012
I dunno. the SSC Aero EV would be a hot contender
http://en.wikiped...model.29

0-60mph (97km/h): 2.5 sec
Top speed: 335km/h
range: 150-200miles (though probably not at top speed)

...

Though not built for long distance racing I still think the White Zombie takes the cake in the drag arena:
0-60mph: 1.8 seconds
http://www.plasma...mbie.php
Deathclock
not rated yet Sep 14, 2012
There's going to be very little difference between the cars because electric motors are already about as good as they get


Ever heard of "formula" racing or "stock" car racing? In fact in most forms of racing differences between the vehicles are minimized if not all but eliminated... the point of the competition is the ability/skill of the driver, not the performance of the vehicle.
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2012
Since they are all custom built anyway to a more or less set pattern why couldn't all the cars be designed so that the battery pack just slides out the back of the car so a charged one could be slid back in more like a regular fuel stop. That would have to be less expensive for the owners and teams than using multiple cars for each race. I would rather see them use the 'stock car' format than the 'formula' style car anyway. It would have more design possibilities for doing what I described above. That would also seem more like normal fuel powered racing for the fans too.