The roar of motors, top drivers, dizzying speed. Formula 1 has been called the queen of motorsport for years. Will it retain this title in the electromobility world? Or will the electric car racing series: Formula E, take over it?
Formula 1 is the world’s most prestigious racing, involving global fame, sky-high sums of money, and great stories. However, according to certain people, its days are numbered. Due to the growing importance of environmentalism and electromobility to the automotive industry, a directive has been signed for F1 to become net CO2 neutral by 2030.
On the other hand, Jean Todt, former head of the International Automobile Federation, claims that electric F1 racing is simply impossible. Is this the end of the ‘queen of motorsport’ as we know it? Will Formula E take its place due to the increasing pressure to be green?
“At first, they laughed at us; then they started looking at us with interest. Now they want to join us.” One of its leading racers, Lucas Di Grassi, says this about Formula E.
The first race in the series took place in 2014. Since then, drivers in electric cars and their teams have been competing against each other in the world’s biggest cities. When the first event was realized in Beijing, it was surprising how much the discipline developed. Meanwhile, due to the growing importance of e-mobility, Formula E is now one of the most innovative motorsports. Since its beginning, the cars of Formula E have changed radically. For example, until 2018, each team needed two cars per driver to complete all the laps. One car was not capable of covering the entire distance on battery power. Nevertheless, it has been possible to prove that electric racing is achievable.
The Gen3 Formula E car unveiled at the Monaco E-Prix demonstrates extraordinary technological developments in performance. Not only do the new vehicles allow the entire race to be run without changing cars, but they are approaching the ‘traditional’ F1 machine’s performance. The latest generation of all-electric FE cars reaches a top speed of 280 km/h. This compares to more than 300 km/h for their F1 counterparts. The electric vehicles also come close to petrol cars in acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h. This is 2.8 and 2.6 seconds compared with the F1 cars.
The PWR Racing Team is a group of about 60 ambitious students who, each year, build a new Formula Student class car that competes internationally on the Formula One track. A year ago, they presented their first electric car with autonomous driving systems – the RT12e. Since the beginning, the PWR Racing Team has focused intensely on developing cutting-edge technologies and enhancing the performance of its car in competitions. Thanks to a partnership with Altair software distributor – Endego, the team can use design and optimization applications such as Altair HyperWorks. As a result of using these applications, they have reduced the vehicle’s weight, which has given the team a massive advantage in the competition.
Currently, the PWR Racing Team is busy building its thirteenth vehicle, designed to achieve even better results on the track thanks to the new solutions. The latest car is equipped with innovative developments from the world of motorsport. It features a complete monocoque, weighing just 24 kilograms, proprietary engines, and high and low-voltage electrical harnesses. Implementing an autonomous driving system in the car made it possible to compete not only in the electric category but also in the driverless category.
The PWR Racing Team was the first Polish group to win an entire edition of the Formula Student Italy competition. Since then, the students have remained among the best teams in the world ranking. The students are not slowing down. This season, the team will present its latest electric car in 4 editions of the competition: in Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. As ambitious people go, they are going for victory.
Electric cars have a future not only because of student interest and success. At a time of climate crisis, when eco-friendly modes of transport are being promoted at every corner, people are switching to bicycles or public transport to save the planet, and people are refusing to fly when it is not necessary, car races that consume hectolitres of fuel to the delight of the crowd seem out of place. Although the fuel consumption of cars is decreasing year after year, a single vehicle still consumes up to 110 kg of fuel during a 1 race. To avoid association with an environmentally unfriendly sport, some sponsors are withdrawing from F1. The funds are flowing into Formula E, which has lower emissions. It is not only the big corporations but also the big stars that can feel the business here. Leonardo DiCaprio is co-founder of the Formula E team Venturi. The actor also takes a seat on the series’ sustainability committee. On the other hand, an entire Formula 1 season – considering all 20 cars, all practice sessions, every qualifying session, and all races – uses less fuel and produces less CO2 than a Boeing 747 flight over the Atlantic. Formula 1 also contributes to technological developments in the efficiency of engines used in vehicles worldwide. A good example is KERS technology.
KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System. When the vehicle slows, kinetic energy is generated as heat from the brake pads and wheel friction. The KERS system recovers this energy and deposits it for use at the best possible moment. With a special button on the steering wheel, the driver can release the stored energy at any time, giving a boost of extra power and an advantage in the race.
There is plenty of critics of Formula E, according to which the automotive spirit is bound to the roar of the engine and the smell of fuel. However, it is a fact that the growing popularity of the sport has forced big corporations to follow green trends. The world’s biggest brands, such as Audi, Renault, Mercedes, and Porsche, have joined electric racing. According to the managing director of Formula E Envision Racing, Sylvain Filippi, Formula 1 may face an important decision: move to all-electric technology or become a specialized niche similar to historic racing.
With the risk of an outflow of sponsors and a need to reduce emissions, F1 faces several dilemmas. Its management must consider the pros and cons of moving to all-electric cars. Will they opt for an electromobility revolution, risk an exodus of fans for whom there is no motoring without roaring engines and petrol and take on the direct competition with the already developed Formula E? Or will they bet on the development of renewable fuel technologies, the gradual reduction of CO2 emissions and the further hybridization of power? One thing is sure: Formula 1 will be carbon-free from 2030 onwards, and to achieve this, its management will have to find a solution that reconciles many seemingly conflicting interests. Undoubtedly, the design and engineering teams will play a massive role in finding it.
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