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Formula E in India: Just a spectacle or more?

Formula E is the fastest growing motorsport and the pinnacle of electric vehicle (EV) technology. India is well represented in the series with Mahindra Racing, having achieved a respectable record of 5 wins and 22 podiums within the 90 races of the Championship to date.

By: Dilbagh Gill – CEO & Team Principal at Mahindra Racing

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, an all-electric racing series, is yet to officially announce a date for the much anticipated race in the host city of Hyderabad in India. It is set to be the first major international motorsport event in India after the last Formula 1 (F1) race held in 2013 at the Buddh International Circuit. Is it just India returning to the international motorsport map once again, or something more?

Formula E is the fastest growing motorsport and the pinnacle of electric vehicle (EV) technology, and very vocal in terms of its own goals of sustainability and e-mobility awareness. India is well represented in the series with Mahindra Racing, having achieved a respectable record of 5 wins and 22 podiums within the 90 races of the Championship to date. Mahindra Racing has been a key driving force in bringing Formula E to India and is committed to promote the electric mobility agenda. With the new era of performance and efficiency, the team is looking forward to race in front of their fans and have a home race.

Still, many in India are not aware of the championship and what it represents. When the 22 Formula E cars hit the roads of Hyderabad, for the first time, it will change that. It will create the awareness India needs, and not just for the sport, but the understanding of how good EV technology can be, in its most impressive form.

The racing is the fun part of it, with all 22 cars hitting the track for two practice sessions, a qualifying session, and then the all-important race. The race lasts for 45 minutes plus 1 final lap. The race is an intense battle for positions, as the higher a driver finishes the more points they score. There aren’t any mandatory pit stops, as the batteries last the entire race duration and the tyres designed for the championship are all-weather tyres.

The cars it races with are unlike any other motor racing championship, and the recent reveal of its Gen3 platform for the next season of Formula E, will accelerate their efficiency if the cars and their powertrains, also accelerate their sustainability push, and change the racing yet again, for the better. Described as “a seriously quick and agile racing car”, with the power-to-weight ratio claimed to be twice as efficient as of a 470bHP internal combustion engine, these are set to be one of the most efficient EVs in the world. Moreover, it uses many components manufactured with recycled materials, with their vision to prove to the world how sustainability and performance can co-exist.

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The fast charging, battery management systems (BMS), reliability, sustainability, and most important of all, the safety of these cars are the absolute benchmark for production EVs. Formula E also serves as a test bed for new battery technology, and BMS that can be applied in mass-produced road cars.

Upgrades over previous generations

A lot has changed in the Gen3 race cars – both in terms of performance and sustainability.

  • Cars in the third generation are faster than they have ever been. For the first time, top speeds of more than 200 mph are predicted, along with a car built exclusively for street circuits.
  • The e-motors claims that 95 percent of the energy pulled from the battery will be utilised for propulsion, which is a big selling point for the Gen 3 cars. In comparison, the current Formula 1 engines have a thermal efficiency of around 50 percent. When the batteries reach the end of their useful life, they will be recycled as well.
  • The 350kW rear-axle Gen 3 cars will have a 250kW front-axle motor, making them the first FIA Formula cars with all-wheel drive and a total of 600kW (about 800 horsepower) under the driver’s right foot. Regenerative braking will generate more than 40% of the energy, up from 25% in Gen2 vehicles.
  • Because of the removal of rear brakes and a reduced battery size, Gen3 cars are 60kg lighter than their predecessors. The cars will also be smaller, making them more suitable for racing on city streets.
  • With the Gen 3 car, Formula E will also introduce ultra-high-speed charging, allowing it to charge 600kW throughout a race.
  • The focus was on sustainability in the Gen 3 car, which has been a hallmark of the series since the beginning. The majority of the car’s components are recyclable, including the batteries, carbon fibre bodywork, and tyres, which can all be recycled later in their lives. The minerals used in the batteries will be mined in an environmentally friendly manner, and the cells will be reused and recycled once their racing days are through. The bodywork is made of linen and recycled carbon fibre from crushed Gen 2 automobiles, with natural rubber and fibres accounting for 26% of the tyres on the Gen 3. Naturally, all of those tyres will be recycled after they have been used.

India has big goals for EVs, with one of the largest passenger vehicle markets in the world, the country has the potential to be one of the leading innovators in the EV segment, and creating one of the largest EV ecosystem in the world. To actually move towards these ambitions, building trust and awareness towards EVs is very important. India has set itself a target of EV sales of 65% in the passenger vehicle market by 2030. 

Today, with the EV sales market share being well under 1%, India needs to create more awareness, in terms of its goals towards carbon neutrality, sustainability, its climate pledges, and how EVs can help in those goals over the years and decades to come. Hosting an international motorsport event such as Formula E is exactly that, and would help accelerate countrywide demand for EVs and speed up the process of getting more EVs on the road. That’s what Formula E will be in India, a big awareness push, with a bit of wheel-to-wheel racing fun.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.         

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