ess than a year from now, an all-electric
open-wheel racing series is set to become
reality. You may be excited by the prospect,
or appalled by the very notion, but you
will have an opinion one way or another.
Electrically-assisted racecars already exist
– from KERS in Formula 1, to hybrid power
units in LMP1 sports cars – so the all-electric
Formula E is the next logical stop. Its10-race,
city streets-based schedule, beginning
Sept. 2014, will be for identical open-wheel
cars and there is plenty to be intrigued by.
Races will be one-hour duration, with
drivers making two mandatory pit stops in
order to change cars. The cars will run in
power-saving mode (133k W or 180hp), but
will have access, via a push-to-pass boost
system, to a maximum 200k W (270hp)
output. That full 200k W will be available
throughout practice and qualifying.
But what about the technology that
makes this first-ever, all-electric one-make
series tick? Launched at September’s
Frankfurt Motor Show, the Formula E car
is packed with innovation from a host of
engineering experts, with F1 giants
McLaren and Williams supplying the
hardware and Renault having a more
holistic, overarching involvement.
Alejandro Agag is the series chief, but the
man responsible for the equipment is Frederic
Vasseur. He heads Spark Racing Technology,
the company that’s produced the SRT_01E.
Vasseur, like Agag, is the boss of a
GP2 team (Vasseur’s ART Grand Prix
competes against Agag’s Addax squad),
but became involved in electric racecars
when he built the Formulec electric
single-seater demonstrator for Eric
Barbaroux and Pierre Gosselin, who both
remain involved with this initiative.
It was at the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix
that Vasseur and Agag hatched their new
plan. As Agag won the tender from the
FIA for the commercial rights, Vasseur
embarked on pulling together the
technical partners to deliver the project.
“From my point of view, full electric is
perhaps the extreme when you consider
the big range from full atmospheric,” says
Vasseur. “It was important for my company
to be involved in such a forward-thinking
project; it’s the future of our business.
“There is new technology in almost
every part of the car. Everything is different,
to the point of having to write our own
safety rules – it’s a very interesting project.”
From his Formulec experience, Vasseur
knew that outsourcing the technology was
key to getting the project off the ground.
“You can’t build everything yourself –
even in F1, they still struggle to do that
with their KERS systems, so they have
many suppliers for parts,” he says.
“The connections we had already at ART
meant we were able to sit around the table
with Renault F1, McLaren, Williams and
Dallara. The challenge was asking them to
work together in the same direction –
which was tough at the beginning!
“Now, I’m fully convinced that the way
we’ve done it was actually the only way to
do it. They are very high-level partners and
they all played a very fair game in putting
their technical resources on the table.”
Dallara, which designed the car along
with Spark, will build 42 carbonfiber and
aluminum monocoque chassis. Two
prototypes will be track-tested from
December, after completion of FIA
crash-test procedures. Following the
rigorous testing program, the chassis and
powertrains will be put into production
and delivery to teams will start next May.
“The biggest challenge is to manage the
safety aspect,” says Vasseur. “Comparing
it to F1 or GP2, their regulations are an
evolution. When you have to build up not
“everything is different to
the point of having to write
our own safety rules – it’s a
very interesting project”
Formula E, the world’s first all-electric race
series, unveiled its spec SRT_01E chassis in
September, a year ahead of the first event.
Initially, the one-hour races will include two
mandatory pit stops to change cars.