Formula E Gen3: The world's most efficient race car
Big changes are coming to make the vehicles more powerful and more efficient.
Although some of the details have already been announced, Formula E officially unveiled its Gen3 car today ahead of this weekend’s Monaco E-Prix. Big changes are coming in terms of power and efficiency when the new cars hit the track next season, but the vehicles will also sport a new look that differs from the current second-gen design. In fact, Formula E has gone so far as to call the Gen3 “the world’s most efficient racing car.”
Until now, much of the focus on Gen3 has been the massive upgrades to performance and efficiency, but the car also sports a new overall body design. Wheel covers are gone in both the front and rear, making the new model more of a true open-wheel car. There are no individual wings over the rear wheels either. Instead, Gen3 has two jet-like fins on the back. That’s because the aerodynamic shape of the car was inspired by fighter aircraft, and indeed the vehicle looks a bit like a more modern F-18 on wheels.
Formula E hopes the new design, which is both lighter and smaller than the Gen2 model, will enable more entertaining racing. Like the new Formula 1 cars that debuted this season, Gen3 is built for more speed, but also for more “agile” wheel-to-wheel racing. Any tweaks that enable more duels on the track usually means a better viewing experience for fans. Plus, these cars should be two to four seconds faster in both qualifying and race conditions.
“The Gen3 is a creature designed for its habitat: racing on city streets in wheel-to-wheel combat,” Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle said in a statement. In fact, the series says this is the world’s first race car specifically designed and optimized for street circuits. With that in mind, it’s fitting that the series would debut the vehicle in Monaco, where last year’s E-Prix saw a half-dozen lead changes and more than 60 overtakes.
When it comes to powertrain, Formula E says the Gen3 car is its “most powerful, lightest, and fastest race car to date,” according to Reigle. “Formula E’s Gen3 race car represents a leap forward for motorsport and electric mobility," he explained. "Designed to demonstrate that high performance, efficiency and sustainability can be packaged together without compromise.”
Inside, an electric motor can deliver 350kW of power (470BHP) to reach top speeds of 200MPH (320 km/h). What’s more, Formula E explains that the power-to-weight ratio for the Gen3 is twice as efficient as the output for a comparable internal combustion engine (ICE). For reference, Formula 1 cars average speeds between 220 and 230MPH during a Grand Prix, depending on the circuit layout. Then there’s the motor efficiency. Formula E says the electric power units can convert over 90 percent of their energy to mechanical power, compared to around 40 percent for an ICE motor.
“The overall performance of the car is going to be much quicker than we have today,” Roger Griffiths, team principal Avalanche Andretti Racing, told Engadget. “That’s the exciting bit – combination of the lower weight, the electric powertrain and the regeneration. Two to four seconds faster around the race track is huge.”
Gen3 won’t rely solely on batteries for power. Around 40 percent of the energy cars will use during an E-Prix will be produced by regenerative braking. This will also be the first Formula car ever with both front and rear powertrains, which will add 250kW to the 350kW in the back. All of it combines for a total of 600kW, which will be more than double the regenerative abilities of the Gen2. In another first for a Formula car, the Gen3 won’t be equipped with hydraulic rear brakes thanks to the addition of the front powertrain and its regenerative output.
“As drivers, we’re always very excited to race with cars that are more competitive with more performance and more efficiency,” ROKiT Venturi Racing driver Edoardo Mortara told Engadget. “With this new Gen3 car, it’s going to be lighter, more powerful and more grip, so it’s going to make [racing] more fun.” Mortara said the second powertrain at the front could be a challenge, demanding a new driving style and enabling new race strategies from the current Gen2 car.
Of course, sustainability is also a key piece to the overall Formula E mission, and Gen3 certainly takes this into account. The series says this will be the first Formula car that incorporates Life Cycle Thinking, or how used components are dealt with once they’re removed from service. In this case, there’s “a second life” already in place for recycling tires, parts and battery cells.
For the new Hankook tires, Formula E says a new process allows for the overall composition to comprise 26 percent sustainable materials, including natural rubber and recycled fibers. The series plans to use the same process as aviation and aerospace industries for carbon fiber recycling to produce material that can be used in other applications. In fact, recycled parts from the current Gen2 cars will be used to make components for the new vehicles. Formula E says this is the first time recycled materials have been used in the body for a Formula car. Lastly, Gen3 will be a net-zero carbon vehicle, in line with Formula E’s achievement as the first net-zero sport. And part of that is strict sustainability benchmarks for suppliers.
“For me, the key thing is efficiency,” Mahindra Racing principal Dilbagh Gill explained to Engadget. “If you look at every parameter, it’s more optimized. 40 percent regeneration is so amazing, and I think that’s something that will be applicable to road cars going forward and something that we’ll learn a lot from.”
Though Formula E has done some on-track testing and simulations of its own, the teams have yet to embark on running the new car. The series says seven teams – DS Automobiles, Jaguar, Mahindra Racing, Maserati, NIO 333, Nissan and Porsche – have signed on with the FIA to race the Gen 3 car in Season 9. Pre-season testing is set to begin this winter.