Opinion: Did Formula E score an own goal? Car News

One of the main reasons that so many automakers have signed up for Formula E is to show what modern electric vehicles are capable of – how far they came from when they offered limited power and range. tiny. Unfortunately, the final laps of the recent series race in Valencia, Spain proved spectacularly counterproductive to this goal.

A series of incidents in wet conditions during the first of two races on the Ricardo Tormo circuit resulted in several safety car periods, including a late one that set up what should have been an exciting two-lap race until arrival. Except it wasn’t a dash, as around half of the peloton – including leader António Félix da Costa – ran out of energy and therefore had to limp at home at a pace close to the forward march. be disqualified, leaving us with only nine official finishers.

It was completely insane – and surely very embarrassing for Formula E. Watching a huge chunk of the terrain crawl played right into those old EV stereotypes that manufacturers are working so hard to overcome. What made it absolutely ridiculous was that none of the cars were actually running out of power. They had a lot of it in their stacks, but they weren’t allowed to use it.

Formula E has made energy management a key part of its races, with each driver having to manage the energy from their car’s 54kWh battery for 45-minute races plus one lap. But to ensure that extended periods of slower-running car safety don’t ruin these tactics, the rules allow officials to reduce the amount of power each car is allowed to use.

In Valencia, officials were surprised in the last period of the safety car when Félix da Costa crossed the finish line to resume the race sooner than they expected, which essentially extended the timed race to the finish line. ‘one more turn than they expected. As a result, most cars used up the energy they were allowed to use – but not the energy they actually had in their battery.

Now the rules are the rules and all that. Race winner Nyck de Vries and a handful of other drivers managed to conserve their energy to get to the finish. But in truth, it was more luck than judgment. Frankly, it was embarrassing for Formula E. As Félix da Costa said, the series was “the joke of the week”.

Formula E has come this far since its inception: the cars are faster and more powerful, and can run much longer (remember the car swaps at mid-race?), And it’s this showcase of EV progress that attracts builders. It took a long time to gain credibility – and the events of two weekends ago dealt a blow to that.

Today, many combustion engine racing cars run out of fuel at the end of the race or have suffered from other embarrassing technical issues. But that’s not what happened here. It wasn’t a failure of EV battery technology – but anyone who saw a bunch of EVs all run out of power before they reached their destination might believe it was, and quite understandable.

The good news is that Formula E bosses have reacted to what happened in Valencia, changing the rules so that they no longer reduce the energy allowed if a safety car period occurs in the last five minutes. of a race. This should prevent similar events from happening again, at least to the same extreme.

But there remains a bigger problem: At a time when manufacturers are trying to prove that EV range anxiety is a dated concept that consumers don’t have to worry about, Formula E is built around the danger inherent in energy management. It certainly helps spice up the race on occasion – but it also continues to risk events that challenge the credibility of EVs in general.


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This notice was published: 2021-05-07 05:01:24