Future of motor racing: What is Formula E?

Future of motor racing: What is Formula E?
For almost as long as there have been vehicles – there have been people across the world wanting to race them. From Formula 1, to NASCAR, to the World Rally Championship, to MotoGP – motorsport has become incredibly popular with millions of fans around the world. But what does the future hold for the sport?

With the ever growing focus on finding alternatives to diesel and petrol powered vehicles, an alternative, electric-powered sport has grown in popularity – Formula E (officially known as the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship).

History of Formula E

The sport was created in 2011 by FIA President Jean Todt and Spanish entrepreneur Alejandro Agog. He latter is also the current Chairman of Formula E Holdings – the owners of the championship.

The idea was to provide a single-seater motorsport – similar to Formula 1 – involving electric cars.

Formula E’s inaugural race took place on September 12th 2014 in the Olympic Park, Beijing, China as part of an 11 race season – concluding in London on June 28th 2015. Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr became the sport’s first ever champion.

Now in its 8th season, Formula E races have appeared in 24 countries – and is currently in the 2022 season, where there are 16 races being contested by 11 teams (each with two drivers).

The sport achieved FIA World Championship status from the 2020/21 season onwards – a distinction that only Formula 1 has had in the history of motorsport.

Formula 1 vs Formula E

With electric cars growing in popularity with the public, and Formula E spreading across the globe with great success, you might think that it is here to take the place of Formula 1.

However, that is not the case currently – with F1 experiencing its own rapid growth in popularity in recent years.

Although F1 cars are faster than their electric counterparts, the gap is certainly closing as the technology continues to develop.

The main goal of the sport is to accelerate the shift to zero emission mobility – and help advance the technology needed to help find alternative to the current way we use transport around the world.

Technology in Formula E

Unlike Formula 1, which uses internal combustion engines, powered by fossil fuels – Formula E has a powertrain that uses electricity created from a battery and converts it to a charge, which the motor uses to turn the wheels.

Charging the car is not allowed during qualifying or the race itself – and can only take place in-between sessions and during practice.

However, there are other, more unique additions to Formula E that separate it from its more historic alternative.


In the build up to the next race, fans can vote for their favourite driver via the sport’s official website or app to give them an extra power boost from the car’s electric engine.

The voting begins three days before the race and starts 15 minutes before the lights go out on the grid.

Five drivers receive an extra boost which lasts for five seconds – and can be used in the second half of the race.

Attack Mode

In the build up to the sports’ 5th season, a new feature was introduced.

This saw drivers receiving an extra 25kw of power after driving through a designated area of the circuit off the racing line of a track– which increased to 35kw in the following seasons.

The time a driver can use the boost is determined on a race-by-race basis – as well as the number of times it can be used.

However, all drivers must activate their boosts by the end of the race – although they do not have to be used.

Format of Formula E

Formula E takes place on city street circuits around the world – rather than racetracks.

On a Friday, there is an E-Prix ‘Shakedown’, where drivers can use the session to check out the features of the track and any unique features at lower speeds.

The following day, there are two 30 minute practice sessions in the morning. Drivers can practice at full race pace and officially timed for their laps.

Following this, qualifying starts after midday. This season saw many changes to the process.

The qualifying format allows the top drivers to showcase their speed, but the session allows the possibility of any driver on the grid to step up and put themselves on pole position.

First, there is a group stage that sees two groups of 11 drivers, ordered based on their World Championship position, setting lap times in a 10-minute session.

The fastest four from each group then progress into the ‘Duels’ stage.

The remaining eight drivers then face off in the quarter-finals in a knockout – which then does into the semi-finals and then the final.

The winner takes pole position, while the runner-up lines up second on the grid.

The semi-finalists will line up third and fourth, the quarter-finalists between fifth and eighth – according to their lap times from their duels.

The fifth to 12th-placed drivers who competed in the polesitter's group will fill the odd positions and the drivers from the other group will be placed in the even grid slots.

Most weeks, the race then follows qualifying rather than the following day (unless it is a double-header weekend).

Each race lasts 45 minutes from a stationary start. Once the clock runs down and the race leader has passed the finish line, there is a final lap before the race is over and a winner is declared.

Just like Formula 1 – Formula E awards points to the top-10 finishers.

  • 1st - 25pts
  • 2nd - 18pts
  • 3rd - 15pts
  • 4th - 12pts
  • 5th - 10pts
  • 6th - 8pts
  • 7th - 6pts
  • 8th - 4pts
  • 9th - 2pts
  • 10th - 1pt

However, the driver who achieves pole position through qualifying receives an extra 3 points and the person with the fastest lap in the race receives a further 1 point (if they finish in the top-10).

How fast are Formula E cars?

Although their fossil fuel-powered counterparts are faster – the gap is closing as technology advances.

Currently, the maximum speed for cars in Formula E is around 280 km/h – around 20 km/h behind the current season’s F1 cars.

The 0-100km/h speeds are also pretty close. Formula E is 2.8 seconds compared to 2.6 seconds.

Formula E teams and drivers

As of today, the 2022 season is 9 races into a 16 race day season – involving 11 teams with two drivers each.

  • Avalanche Andretti – Jake Dennis and Oliver Askew
  • Dragon/Penske Autosport – Sergio Sette Camara and Antonio Giovinazzi
  • DS Techeetah – Antonio Felix Da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne
  • Envision Racing – Robin Frijns and Nick Cassidy
  • Jaguar TCS Racing – Mitch Evans and Sam Bird
  • Mahindra Racing – Alexander Sims and Oliver Rowland
  • Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team – Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck De Vries
  • NIO 333 – Oliver Turvey and Din Ticktum
  • Nissan E.Dams – Maximillian Gunther and Sebastien Buemi
  • Rokit Venturi Racing – Edoardo Mortara and Lucas Di Grassi
  • Tag Heuer Porsche – Andre Lotterer and Pascal Wehrlein

Formula E 2022 schedule

This season began in Saudi Arabia in January where there was a double header. The sport then travelled to Mexico City, Rome (double header), Monaco, Berlin (double header), Jakarta, and Marrakesh.

There are now six remaining races – three double headers.

On the 16th/17th July, Formula E heads to the USA and the Brooklyn Street Circuit in New York City.

Following this, on the 30th/31st July Formula E takes place at ExCel London.

The final race weekend takes place on the 13th/14th August at the Seoul Street Circuit in South Korea – where the world champion will be crowned.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Join the RAC and get breakdown cover. Our patrols fix 4 out of 5 vehicles on the spot, with repairs done in just 30 minutes on average.

RAC Breakdown Cover
RAC Breakdown Cover

Formula E in the UK

As explained above – Formula E is heading to the UK at the end of next month!

On the weekend of the 30th/31st July, the ExCel Centre in Newham, East London will host the 13th and 14th races of the season.

The race follows a track that goes in and around the exhibition centre and the across the world famous Royal Docks.

For fans wanting to watch the race in the capital, there are six current racers who are from the UK – Oliver Turvey (NIO 333), Dan Ticktum (NIO 333), Sam Bird (Jaguar), Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti), Alexander Sims (Mahindra Racing), and Oliver Rowland (Mahindra Racing).

Where can you watch Formula E?

For those who are not attending the event in person, there are several ways to watch a race day.

In the UK, you can watch Formula E on Channel 4 – with practice and qualifying also appearing on the channel’s YouTube channel.

Highlights also appear on the sister channel All 4.

The race is also featured on Eurosport and the Formula E YouTube channel.

What does the future hold for electric motor racing?

With its growing popularity – the future of the sport is very bright. With international TV deals and major cities around the world hosting Formula E, there are many reasons to be excited about the future of electric vehicles in motorsport.

Formula E also has several support series to aid in the development of the sport – and the advancement of the technology involved in EVs.

The Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy involved racing electric SUVs, Roborace focused on the development of autonomous electric cars and the FE School series involved student teams developing their own EVs.

Formula E is also highlighting the growing popularity of Esports – and has held three seasons of events to date.

However, Formula E isn’t the only successful electric motor racing organisation in recent years.

Last year, the eTouring World Cup kicked off in style and is set to be a part of the FIA.

In the next FIA sanctioned electric motor sport – the GT Championship – grand tour vehicles will race from 2023 onwards.

Extreme E is an off-road racing series that uses electric SUVs that races in some of the world’s most remote places – including the Amazon and the North Pole.

And the electric motorsport isn’t just limited to four wheels – as the MotoE World Cup started in 2019, and uses electric motorcycles.

What do you make of the latest developments within motorsport? Will you be watching when Formula E comes to London next month? Let us know in the comments below.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Join the RAC and get breakdown cover. Our patrols fix 4 out of 5 vehicles on the spot, with repairs done in just 30 minutes on average.

RAC Breakdown Cover
RAC Breakdown Cover