Why Formula E is 'much more entertaining than Formula One'

Why Formula E is 'much more entertaining than Formula One'
While the Formula One circus rolls into Silverstone this weekend for the British Grand Prix, its quieter sibling, Formula E, is basking in the afterglow of the finale at Battersea Park, where Sebastien Buemi was crowned champion of Formula E's second season.

The sport has been busy pushing back the boundaries of motorsport all year, and making its petrol-thirsty brother look like an asthmatic dinosaur. 

Formula E is the research and development playground for so many different industries, companies and technologies these days that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Even the ticket booths are powered by solar energy, and the zero-emission glycerine fuel used to charge the cars is so clean that organisers promise you can drink it (I’ll let someone else test that one).

In one race, you’ll be witnessing the pioneering work of engine builders, tyre engineers and electrification scientists - such is the technologically diverse nature of the sport.

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Given all this cutting-edge research, the sport could be forgiven for being a tad dull, but right now, it’s also a far more engaging and entertaining sport than F1. Plenty of lessons to be learned there.

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I was speaking at an event in London the other day with the people behind Qualcomm Halo. Never heard of them? No one has really, but all you need to know is they work with Chargemaster, who provide most of the UK’s charging points for electric cars and as predictions are that there will be 500,000 electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the roads in just four years’ time, they will become increasingly important.

So they’re testing a lot of tech at Formula E this season. Such as wireless charging for cars.

The BMW i8 and i3 course cars can’t stay tethered to a plug during the race in case they’re suddenly needed, so they sit over giant pads and draw up the charge using the naturally occurring magnetic field that exists where there’s an electric current.

The progression from there is to road cars all charging wirelessly.

I’ve already tried this little trick with a Golf: you inch forward over the pad in the parking bay until the car tells you it’s happy, then get out and walk away, and the car sucks up the charge.

Where it will pay particular dividends is for premium cars: Jaguar Land Rover has electric cars in its sights, but would you really want to buy a £100,000 plug-in Range Rover and have an ugly cable sticking out of the side? From there, it’s a short step to pads being installed as part of street furniture and cars simply drawing charge as they pass near them.

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Then there’s the tyres: Michelin is the regulation tyre provider and has to be applauded for trying to narrow the gap between motorsport tyres and the road tyres we all drive on.

Hence Formula E cars drive on treaded tyres instead of racing slicks. Why? Because “you don’t change your tyre when it goes from dry to wet”, as Pascal Couasnon, Michelin motorsport director points out, "so Formula E teams shouldn’t either". 

And now we have the mouth-watering prospect of Jaguar competing in the next season, which starts this autumn.

Nick Rogers, group engineering director for Jaguar Land Rover, said, “Over the next five years we will see more changes in the automotive world than in the last three decades…Formula E has recognised and reacted to these trends”.

And so we see Jag back in competitive motorsport for the first time in 11 years; a glowing endorsement of the power of Formula E.

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