You only have to look at the line-up for this season of Formula E, the world’s top all-electric racing series, to see how much it means to road-car manufacturers: Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Nissan were all on the grid for the fifth season’s opening round, the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in Riyadh, on Saturday. Porsche and Mercedes are due to join that quartet for the 2019 edition.
Many of the planet’s largest household-name carmakers are lining up to get involved – and in doing so, use Formula E as a high-profile research-and-development arena for future vehicles bought and driven by us regular folk. Additional evidence comes via the fact that McLaren’s Applied Technologies arm is behind the batteries used by Formula E cars, while a new supporting single-manufacturer series, the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy, uses the road-going electric SUV as its basis.
Indeed, Panasonic Jaguar Racing driver Mitch Evans, 24, provided a direct personal link. “I drove the I-Pace quite early on when it was a concept car,” he explains. “I also did a drag race against a Tesla – and won. So I’ve done quite a lot with it – and for sure I’d like to have one parked up in my garage.
“A lot of the feedback that I give to my technical team [in Formula E] will then get passed on to Jaguar Land Rover. At the moment, both in the automotive industry and the motorsport industry, electric motors are developing at a similar rate, so a lot of the information and the technology, you can use it either way. The future cars you’ll see on the road, you’ll start to have a bit of a direct impact from what we’ve learnt in Formula E.”
His teammate, former Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr, 33, agrees. “Efficiency, the power-train, the hardware, the way we do things – these are all things that we learn and we end up giving the ‘secrets’ to the engineers who are going to build cars for the industry. Then they try to find ways to adapt that to integrate that into the road cars.”
Antonio Felix da Costa won the Ad Diriyah E-Prix for BMW i Motorsport. The Munich manufacturer says: “The main driving force behind BMW i Motorsport is the development of innovative technology in the field of electromobility. The Formula E project is already providing valuable impetus in the development of [BMW concept] iNEXT and the next generation of BMW i models. The borders between production and motor racing development are more blurred at BMW i Motorsport than in any other project.
Read more: The National