The Volkswagen Group is participating in this season’s Formula E with its Audi e-tron FE05 as the defending champion. The new all-electric racing machine will compete in the opening race in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 15. For its part, Porsche AG has already announced its intention to join the Formula E fray in the 2019/2020 season.
The opening race in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on 15 December marks the beginning of a new era in the Formula E Championship: thanks to the cars' longer range, the drivers will start the race for the first time with only one car at a time. With the new all-electric Audi e-tron FE05 Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi are again fighting for the title.
The reason for the biggest innovation in Formula E history is that the battery capacity is now sufficient over the entire 45-minute race distance. This, too, is proof of how motorsport – and above all Formula E – drives innovations and technologies that then become suitable for the masses.
Formula E is always a well-attended event in cities that host the races. When, in 2017, a race was held in Switzerland for the first time in 20 years, 120,000 spectators lined the route in Zurich. These electrifying contests tend to draw a lot of people who would never go to Hockenheim or a Formula 1 race, but who are very interested in e-mobility, clean air in cities and the cars of the future.
Twelve cities, twelve weekends, 13 races
The 5th season of Formula E will be contested in twelve cities on twelve weekends with a total 13 races. It ends on July 14, 2019 in New York. One special feature again this year: Formula E races will be held exclusively on public streets in city centers. Such streets are naturally narrower than race tracks, which demands the utmost in concentration from the drivers. In the 2018/2019 season, Formula E will follow the kick-off in Riyadh with stops in Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Paris, New York City, Santiago, Punta del Este, Mexico City, Monaco, Rome, Berlin and Bern. Many major cities around the world support Formula E. The races can be held in the heart of the city, because electric cars are quiet and the perfect technology for urban areas. Twenty drivers will vie for the title this year – with the number of teams and participating manufacturers steadily growing. For its part, Porsche AG has already announced its intention to join the Formula E fray in the 2019/2020 season.
In Formula E, all participants start with identical cars and identical batteries. But then competition comes in to play: engines, transmissions, suspensions – “everything behind the battery” – are developed by the carmakers themselves. In doing so, they compete not only to have the fastest, but also the most efficient car. And they demonstrate their technical acumen in the process.
The winner not only has to be fast, but efficient too
In contrast to Formula 1, the winner in Formula E is not necessarily the car that is fastest on the road. That alone, after all, would pose the risk of not even reaching the finish line. “The winner is the driver who most expertly masters the combination of speed and efficiency,” explains Stefan Moser, the man responsible for Motorsport Communications at Audi AG. Normally the battery capacity is sufficient for only 80% of the distance, which is fixed at 45 minutes of driving plus one lap. The driver is absolutely dependent on recovering energy during the race – or recuperating it, as the experts say – in order to reach the finish line at all. “Recuperating as much as possible, and conserving as much energy as possible, means easing off the gas longer before the corner, letting the car roll, braking less – at the expense of speed,” says Moser, adding: “Every driver has to earn 20% of the battery output. It’s the only way to reach the finish line.” And there, of course, only the first one across the line wins!
A completely new car developed
In 2017/2018, Audi claimed the title for the Volkswagen Group. The team from the premium manufacturer will therefore be the one for the others to catch this season, something the team members have been preparing meticulously for. They’ve built a completely new car: the Audi e-tron FE05. At its heart is the drivetrain, consisting of the engine, inverters, transmission, parts of the rear-axle suspension and the corresponding software. “We’ve retained the basic concept with one gear while at the same time refining all the elements in detail and manufacturing them anew,” says Tristan Summerscale, Audi’s Formula E Project Manager. Ninety-five percent of the components in the drivetrain are new. In the process, engineers managed to shave off ten percent of the weight.
Summerscale and his team began developing the Audi e-tron FE05 in mid-2017, even before the start of last year’s fourth season. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) approved the car in July 2018. Changes were no longer allowed at that point; developers are only permitted to continue enhancing the software during the season.
In the fifth season of Formula E, the maximum motor output in qualifying is restricted to 250 kW (340 hp). In the race itself, the limit is 200 kW (272 hp). New this year are what are known as the activation zones. When the driver passes through this zone on the track, the car’s output temporarily bumps up to 225 kW (306 hp). Formula E fans will be able to select their favorite driver again this year through online voting: with the “FanBoost”, output temporarily jumps to 250 kW (340 hp). After winning the vote, the energy boost, which the driver can use to overtake a competitor, is enabled for the driver wirelessly.
All Formula E teams draw their power from an identical, 374-kilogram battery from McLaren. The lithium-ion battery is positioned between the driver’s seat and the drivetrain, has a capacity of 53 kWh and is fully charged within 45 minutes. One completely new development for the fifth season is the brake-by-wire system developed by Audi. Braking and transmission to the rear axle are completely separate from each other and electronically controlled. This enables optimal brake force distribution at all times and more efficient recuperation.
From 0 to 100 km/h? In 3.1 seconds!
The minimum weight for a Formula E race car is 900 kilograms, including the driver. The electric car can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.1 seconds and reaches a top speed of approximately 240 km/h. One notable feature is that the new Audi e-tron FE05 dispenses with a rear wing – something unheard of in motorsport. Downforce is provided by the large diffuser on the tail end of the race car instead.
Terms like “Batmobile, “Star Wars,” and “spaceship” were promptly bandied about by fans and the media after the initial test drives to describe the car’s futuristic look. “When I drive between other cars on the track, I feel like I’m in a science fiction movie,” says Daniel Abt.