First Formula E Electric-Car Race Held Sunday In Beijing
Modern electric cars are good at many things, but generating excitement from fans of speed arguably isn’t one of them.
The Formula E Championship is an attempt to show that electric cars can be exciting, and its first race didn’t disappoint.
Held in Beijing, the first sanctioned all-electric race featured drivers from the most prestigious arenas of motorsport, slick electric race cars, and a YouTube-worthy crash.
The race was won by Audi Sport ABT driver Lucas di Grassi, who also drove an Audi R18 e-tron quattro diesel-electric hybrid at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Audi driver was running third when a major crash took E.Dams Renault’s Nicholas Prost and Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld out of contention.
Heidfeld was attempting a pass, but Prost didn’t see him and moved across the track, causing the collision.
Heidfeld then hit a barrier, and the impact launched his car into the air. Remarkably, neither driver was seriously injured.
Crashes happen in all forms of racing, though, and the rest of the event went smoothly, including the implementation of efficiency-focused rules.
Three drivers were given time penalties for using more than the allotted 28-kilowatt-hours to finish the race.
Audi Sport ABT driver Daniel Abt was most affected, getting bumped from third place to tenth. Amlin Aguri’s Katherine Legge and Virgin Racing’s Jaime Alguersuari were also penalized.
Each of the 10 teams in Formula E fields two drivers, each of which gets two cars, leaving one to switch to when the starting car runs out of electricity.
For this first season, all teams will use identical Spark-Renault SRT_01E open-wheel cars, although individual teams will reportedly be able to field their own designs next season.
The Spark-Renault produces 270 horsepower, and its top speed is limited to 140 mph to preserve the battery pack. It can race for 20 to 30 minutes on a single charge, necessitating the car changes for Formula E’s hour-long races.
In addition to using quiet electric cars, Formula E minimizes disruption to its host cities with a streamlined schedules.
Unlike most race series, which spread practice, qualifying, and actual racing over several days, Formula E does everything in a single day, on temporary circuits laid out on public streets.
The next round of the Formula E Championship is the Putrajaya ePrix in Malaysia on November 22. There will also be two races in the U.S.–in Miami on March 14, 2015, and Long Beach on April 4–before the season finale in London next June.