Exclusive: Formula E Too Bland? Meet The Electric GT World Series — Initially Based Entirely On the Tesla Model S

As the first official FIA-endorsed world championship for single-seat electric car racing, Formula E has worked hard to change people’s preconceptions of electric cars. But while the series — now in its second official year — has successfully brought single-seat, zero-emission racing to city centres, electrifying a whole new generation of motor sports fans in the process, the series is not without its critics.

Fancy a race series with the Tesla Model S? We knew you would.

Fancy a race series with the Tesla Model S? We knew you would.

For a start, races are far shorter than traditional Formula 1 race at 50 minutes in length. The cars — limited to a top speed of 140 mph — can run for between 20 and 25 minutes at race speeds before their 28 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion batteries run flat, necessitating a car-swap mid-race. And while the high-spec motors in each car can produce a theoretical peak power of 200 kilowatts, drivers must stay below 170 kilowatts during the race (unless they have been awarded the equally controversial Fanboost facility via social-media voting ahead of the race).

Formula E is great -- but it has its flaws.

Formula E is great — but it has its flaws.

Combined, say critics, Formula E isn’t a good representation of what real all-electric motorsport could be. It’s neutered, safe, and far less exciting as a consequence. What the world needs, those same critics say, is an old-fashioned race series based around high-power, long range electric race cars.

Now we’re happy to report that electric motor sports fans are going to get just that, courtesy of the Electric GT World Series. Announced this morning, the Electric GT World Series is the world’s first 100 percent electric GT championship, and will welcome a total of ten teams for its inaugural race season in 2017. In keeping with GT (Gran Tourer) tradition, the race series will be based on production electric cars you can buy today. And for now, there’s only one electric car in production around the world which fits the bill: the Tesla Model S luxury electric sports sedan.

In an official press release earlier today, Agustin Payá, Technical Director for Electric GT Holdings, revealed that the Tesla Model S P85+ — a former flagship variant of Tesla Motors’ [NASDAQ:TSLA] Model S electric car — would be the base model all ten teams will use during the series’ first season.

What’s more, the  brand-new championship has already secured the support of both the Royal Spanish Motorsport Federation, and the Fédération Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) — although at the moment it’s not yet an official FIA race series.

The inaugural 2017 Electric GT World Series will use the Tesla Model S P85+ as its car of choice.

The Electric GT World Series could use a newer Tesla Model S with dual-motor, but it says the older P85+ is perfect for racing.

“It is the best zero emissions car on the road capable of racing on world class circuits in the GT category,” the cofounder and promoter of the championship said. “In its production version it accelerates faster and provides better lap times than many combustion GT cars. We chose the Tesla Model S simply because it is one of the best cars ever made, and certainly one of the best 100% electric cars. We are convinced that sharing its impressive circuit racing potential will help to inspire many people about sustainable transport.”

No stranger to motorsport, Payá is both an engineer and a professional racing car driver. In 2009, he made the switch from racing conventional gasoline-powered vehicles to zero emission cars, and became the 2015 Spanish FIA ECO Rally Champion for electric cars thanks to a successful race season in an all-electric race-prepared Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive.

Why the Tesla Model S P85+ rather than the more powerful Tesla Model S P90DL which replaced it last year as Tesla’s flagship Model S?

It’s all down to the car’s suitability for racing, says Payá. Rear-wheel drive cars have traditionally been preferred for track racing for many reasons ranging from driver preference through to better cornering characteristics and weight distribution. In the case of the rear-wheel versus all-wheel drive, there’s a whole lot less complexity to deal with when it comes to quick repairs and maintenance.

But it’s also down to the impressive specifications of the original Tesla Model S P85+. In its stock form, the luxury sedan produces 310 kilowatts of power and 443 pound-feet of torque, and of course, packs an impressive 85 kilowatt-hours of energy storage. While that’s not going to give you the same 250+ miles of range on a race track as you can get on the public road, it’s certainly going to give a longer race-time than the 28-kilowatt hour pack in a Formula E race car.

The cars used will be modified for racing -- but use the same motor and power electronics as the production version.

The cars used will be modified for racing — but use the same motor and power electronics as the production version.

“For this we count on one of the best world-class race preparation teams. We are making only small changes to the production Model S P85+ such as improved braking and aerodynamics to increase high speed grip. We will strengthen suspension, braking cooling and steering as well as reducing overall weight,” Payá explains. “The rest — powertrain, battery, programming — everything is original.

“We have been testing the car already on the Barcelona Catalunya F1 Circuit as well as the legendary Madrid Jarama circuit, both of which are being used as test and operations centers. The car’s handling is sensational. No-one could imagine that the production version of this 100% electric car would be capable of handling the circuit so well and go so fast and so far.”

The idea for Electric GT came from experiencing last year's Formula E series.

The idea for Electric GT came from experiencing last year’s Formula E series.

Payá is joined by Scottish ex-pat, software engineer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Mark Gemmell. Co-founder and CEO of Electric GT Holdings, Gemmell says the idea to form the new race series took shape last year at the Monte Carlo e-Prix.

“What promoters of Formula E are doing to spread the word about sustainable mobility is just fantastic,” he told us earlier today. “It was at the Monte Carlo e-Prix last year that we decided to move beyond the exhibitions we were planning and to investigate seriously the possibility of creating a new zero-emissions motorsport category using production cars.

“My admiration and respect for Elon Musk and everything that Tesla Motors does for the development of sustainable mobility drove me to consider the possibility of creating a championship with the Model S as a promotional platform for technology innovation, sustainable development and fossil fuel divestment. but it was when Agustin and our technical team confirmed that the Model S is more than suitable for GT racing that I decided to go global with a brand-new motor sport category.”

Like Formula E, the inaugural race series will be made up of twenty drivers and ten teams. Starting in Europe, the race series will visit different countries around the world, passing through North America and Asia en-route. Unlike Formula E — which uses temporary tracks built on city streets — the Electric GT World Series will use world-class racing circuits. So far, Electric GT Holdings says it is negotiating dates for races at Barcelona-Catalunya, Donnington Park, Mugello, Nürburgring, Assen, Estoril and Madrid Jarama. While official venues are still to be confirmed, Electric GT’s official race calendar will be announced later this year.

At each weekend-long race, visitors will be able to tour an in-field festival of technology and sustainable innovation, while we’re promised the championship itself will leverage the best in multimedia to enhance fan experience both on and off track.

For now the Tesla Model S is the only production car -- but Rimac (and others) could one day join in too.

For now the Tesla Model S is the only production car — but Rimac (and others) could one day join in too.

Naturally, while the Tesla Model S is the only suitable production car for use in the Electric GT race series right now, its founders say future models from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and others — perhaps even Rimac if it brings a production car to market — will also be welcome to join in the fun. Ultimately they say, Electric GT World Series will be a celebration of all the high-powered electric supercars on sale around the world.

Globally, the idea of electric car racing is hardly new. In Japan for example, we’ve seen electric car racing take place for many years on local circuits, while similar one-off events in the U.S. have sought to bring electric car racing into the public eye. Other than Formula E however, we’ve yet to see a successful global electric car race series for fans to get their teeth into.

With GT far more popular in many countries than single-seat Formula-style racing, we think Electric GT Holdings might just be onto something.

We’ll be sure to bring you more news as we have it, but in the meantime we’re curious as to what you think of this exciting announcement. Who would you like to see racing in the inaugural Electric GT series? Will you follow it? And will you be in line when tickets become available for the first season?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Chris

    Such a cool idea. Can’t wait to see how a P85+ works in race trim.

  • MEroller

    “The rest — powertrain, battery, programming — everything is original.”
    Those guys either have no clue, or the reporting here is not telling us everything. No-one has ever managed to make a Tesla Model S complete even one single circuit of the Nürburgring under full power, the controller and motor are so prone to overheating that max power is strongly curtailed after even just a few km of full power driving. So the one and foremost thing that would have to be drastically changed on a Model S in order to make a really useful GT racing car is to first split the motor and controller cooling into two separate cooling circuits (maybe make the battery cooling a third circuit) and assigning them each some far bigger coolers than is currently the case, especially for the motor. Having motor (easily enduring 200°C and even a little more) and controller (breaking a heavy sweat at 140°C latest, more at home at below 85°C!) in one single circuit heats up the controller via the motor so quickly that it cuts the power quite drastically.

    Proper cooling is MUCH more important than those ridiculously wide tires and the humongous wing at the back of the tarped Models S in the picture…

    • KIMS

      I agree. And I’m sure those things will be readily addressed once passenger seats are taken out and dumped along with similar non-essentials that will free up space for modified cooling systems etc. One thing is for sure, I’m very curious to see, hear and read about all the gory details as they become available!

  • CDspeed

    This should be interesting, and I hope they don’t put it on Fox sports again. I can’t find Formula E at all, and when I do it seems like they intentionally run the wrong show.

  • Jack Brown

    If you can’t wait, come to Laguna Seca May 22 for Refuel All electric EV time trials. There will be at least 30 of us in Teslas tearing up the corkscrew.

  • Ben Schaffer

    Those of us in the Tesla community have been doing this already at a smaller scale and privately. It is great to see more people joining us! This platform has a long way to go and if everyone works together great improvements can be made!
    Congrats from the team at Unplugged Performance!

  • Mark Gemmell

    Mark here (from EGT). Great comments, thanks.
    Just to say that Nurburgring is the GP circuit, not the infamous Nordschleife (“North Loop”) or “green hell” as my countryman Jackie Stewart called it.
    None the less, racing the Tesla means dealing with overheating and power limit issues of course. The reason we are not changing the power train is simple… Tesla would not be happy if we did and we don’t want them to be unhappy! Our challenge is to deal with that and make the racing awesome. I think our race prep team are up to the challenge (includes ex-Tesla + FE race engineers) 🙂
    As for watching the races… There are a few surprises coming, but it will be free and open to all, and there will be more but I’m not allowed to say right now… Watch our twitter feed and this site, and thanks for all your support.

    • kart

      Awesome. Please bring this to the Buddh International Circuit in Delhi, India as well.Really looking forward to it 🙂 Cheers!!

    • MEroller

      Nürburgring is what the full racetrack has always been called. Only since the GP circuit was built the old track in all it’s glory was relegated to being referred to as the Nordschleife …
      But what really worries me is how Tesla Motors have EVERYONE in sheer terror of falling out of their favor if they DARE fiddle with THEIR car. Now whose car is it if I buy it with mine own money? MINE maybe?! The utter overpowering and completely inadequate cooling situation is Tesla Motors own doing, and they are being ridiculed by Porsche quite rightly for this. But how ever can a race series be based on such a dictatorship as Tesla Motors is imposing on their customers, while the vehicle is auto-castrated after just a few minutes into the race? That is unheard of. GT racing is all about TUNING production vehicles to one’s own liking and to make it more suitable for racing, of course voiding the warranty along the way. The little problem with Tesla Motors is that they have complete control over the car, and can easily render the cars unusable for their rightful owner. Simply disgusting…

      Just imagine if Formula E cars could only take off at full power, and then be automatically throttled back to 50 or even less % of their original power for the remainder of the race – how bland would that be?

      Nevertheless I wish your EGT endeavors all the best, but please do not crawl at Tesla Motors feet, but rather beseech them to at least allow you to address the cooling issues – in Tesla’s own interest for some first-class free publicity!

    • Daniel Zamir

      “Tesla would not be happy if we did…”
      Would Tesla representatives cooperate perhaps with fixing the overheating and power limit issues?
      Sure there are warranty issues but it would be great publicity, I would find it odd for them not to cooperate.

  • rageonbruh

    The best way to WIN an electric car series would be to toss the battery and go with a Fuel-Cell. That would eliminate the need for a ridiculous cooling system and shed a ton of weight.

    • Thanks for sharing. However, as the Toyota Mirai has shown (and several other FCV vehicles) the heat produced by your average hydrogen fuel cell stack is truly astonishing. Even the 100 kW fuel cell stacks found in the Miria, Tucson FCV and upcoming Clarity FCV require gargantuan amounts of cooling due to their inherent inefficiencies. Indeed lack of cooling is one of the reasons why FCVs have struggled to achieve the same kind of 0-60 times of battery electric vehicles: getting that much air into the front of a car to cool it really hammers efficiency.

      FCV racing would indeed be interesting to watch. But only when the technology has reached a point where the heavy weight of compressed gas tanks, and the matter of cooling the stack has been addressed.

      And in that context, it’s actually behind battery electric technology at the current moment in time.

      • bill

        Nikki , most Hydrogen tanks are made of composites and weigh very little (20 – 30 kg). -certainly FCEVS have a lot lighter complete powertrain system than any BEV. I would imagine the power to weight ratio of two equally powered vehicles (FCEV and a BEV) would be a considerable win for the FCEV regardless of airflow requirements

        • Michael Thwaite

          Isn’t it close to a wash when you add the necessary batteries into the FCV or would you say it’s still lighter? Do you think we’ll see some high performance FCVs in the future?

          • bill

            Hi Michael. Have a look at http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/bmw-returning-to-le-mans-with-hydrogen-race-car-rumor/
            I doubt you will ever see a BEV at le man’s. How do you increase the range in a BEV? Answer:
            Add more batteries
            Then you have an even less efficient/powerful car which you will need to add batteries to make more competitive ..oh dear.

          • Michael Thwaite

            I agree that it seems unlikely that a BEV would be a good LeMans endurance car today, unless battery swap was a practical option…. without stopping! With batteries on the bench though with 5x the storage/weight as current cells but with a lot of unknowns, and, in this case, with BMW only considering FCV in 2020, I think it’s still an event bet.

          • Chris

            I think we’ll see LMP1 cars get progressively bigger batteries and smaller engines over the coming years until it’s basically an i3 REX with a motor only to keep the battery topped up. Eventually it’ll be fully electric but if we end up with 95% electric and 5% ICE for a couple more decades then I’d take that.

          • mlhoheisel

            Tesla style battery packs could be swapped by a pit crew in less than 30 seconds. The current Formula e system is a dead end.

        • jeffhre

          2016 Toyota Mirai, Mid sized, 151 HP, four occupants, INTERIOR DIMENSIONS – TBD, Curb weight 4,078 lbs

          2016 Model S, Large sized, 328 HP, % + 2 occupants, CARGO CAPACITY – ALL SEATS IN PLACE 31.6 cu.ft., Curb weight 4647 lbs

          • bill

            You are comparing a very good BEV against a reasonable first effort FCEV. If we strip the tech down to basics: imagine two identical electric vehicle, both with motors , inverters, dc-dc’s etc. The only difference is a set of batteries vs a fuel cell and tank. That is where we need to do the power to weight calculation. At the end of the day batteries suffer inherent poor energy density.

          • jeffhre

            “You are comparing a very good BEV against a reasonable first effort FCEV.” Yes.

            “If we strip the tech down to basics: imagine two identical electric vehicle” That is the problem, you are comparing batteries to FC stacks atomistically as though you were comparing two completed cars – a fundamentally flawed process from a systems approach. Michael Thwaite asked a technical, system oriented question and you answered with a philosophical reply as above = FCs are better.

            Any engineering project is necessarily a series of compromises. A battery which compensates for low energy density must be large. However, as Mr. Thwaite stated, FC stacks employ batteries to overcome problems with low power density. No one get’s the chance to say my favorite system is better than yours, game over – without driving the actual cars!

          • bill

            Jeffhre, I am not saying one tech is better than the other. I believe the only way to a zero carbon future transport system is for the advancement of FCEV and BEV. BEV will become dominant for short journeys, short commuters etc and FCEV for longer distance travel, buses and goods transportation. I don’t believe that any of my previous comments were ‘philosophical ‘. I work in the industry so am not just commenting as an internet ‘expert’. The future needs hydrogen as most experts agree. However , I get very frustrated by the Elon musk fan club who insist that FCEV is dead in the water because Elon says so and ignore the fact that he owns a BEV company.

          • mlhoheisel

            Most “experts” agree that that FCEV is dead…simply not a viable alternative. It’s just the car of the future from 30 years ago before anybody actually worked through the technology details. Pretending otherwise is indeed frustrating to anyone who is aware of the facts. The foremost fact is there is zero global infrastructure for FCEV and it’s completely useless without it. Building such an infrastructure would cost trillions of dollars and take decades…to produce a result less efficient than BEVs now. Battery electrics already have an infrastructure everywhere in the world there is electricity and solar cell rechargers that fit in a trailer can power them even in the wilderness. FCEV hydrogen infrastructure (which is all based on natural gas reforming) is just another effort by fossil fuel interests to try to stay relevant.

          • bill

            I can catagorically state that a BEV would be heavier than a FCEV of equivalent power . Somebody once told me that the prime job of a BEV is to transport it’s batteries. The weight of batteries has a mass compounding effect on other vehicle system e.g..- stronger chassis, steering, suspension, more powerful motors and powertrain system etc to cope with the low power density of the batteries.

          • jeffhre

            “I can catagorically state…” LOL, yes you can! And I can say exactly the same thing in comparing V8s to straight fours.

    • jeffhre

      The cooling issue and controversy suffered by the Tesla is electric motor cooling not the battery. FCEVs also employ electric motors.

  • WH

    I am looking forward to this. The more exciting it is the more us mere mortals will strive to own or rent a Tesla. I would like to see a balanced gender race with one male and one female driver in each team over a longer time frame than formula-E.

    • Edward Hunter

      No disrespect but I’d prefer it if teams picked the best drivers rather than having to fill some balanced gender quota. If there’s a woman in there, great. If there isn’t, shouldn’t matter too much. And Simona De Silvestro is a full time female driver in Formula E who has driven in 8 races with the same team; I think she’s in it for the long haul. How much of a longer time frame do you need than a whole season?

      • Would you say the same if the drivers were nearly all women? 😉

        • Edward Hunter

          No, but in this hypothetical scenario I’d say: “pick the best drivers: If there’s a man in there great. If there isn’t, doesn’t matter.”

          But the Motorsport world doesn’t work like that. It’s largely a meritocracy not a: “Give the girl a chance just because she is one.” They have to work their way through the same as the guys; there are some like Simona that do and I have the utmost respect for them; they’re the exceptions though, and that’s just the way that it is. More can be done and should be done at grassroots levels to encourage female karters, especially promising ones, to stick with it and make the jump to cars. But if you expect to get far as a driver in the motorsport world purely because you are female, then prepare to be disappointed; you have to be good as well. Which is why it pisses me off to see token women like Susie Wolff or Carmen Jorda praised for having achieved nothing in their careers, and only being recognisable as an F1 team’s ‘development driver’ who stands in the garage doing nothing but look pretty all day; they even seem content with that. They’re not there because they’re any good, they’re there to fill a quota and attract casual press surprised to see that a lady gets to drive, when the truth is it’s just a ploy and a marketing strategy. The male equivalent tends to be referred to as a “pay driver” who brings cash to the team.

  • John Tamplin

    As someone who takes my Model S to the track pretty regularly (going to Road Atlanta on Monday), I agree with other comments that trying to race it without improving cooling is not going to work. It isn’t as dire as some suggest, but after about 15-20min in a session (depending on the track) the power limit is down to where I feel like a moving chicane. Also, I’m sure a professional driver would do better and keep the power output higher – I found as I got faster, drivetrain cooling became more of a problem. It’s fine for HDPE where you are typically on track for 20-25 min sessions anyway, and I’m the only guy on track that gets to drive both a horsepower car and a momentum car in the same session, but thinking you are going to run longer races than Formula E using mostly stock Model S’s is just dreaming.

    The 85kWh battery won’t go that far either – while 2.5x larger than the Formula E battery, the car is also 2.5x heavier. At full power, I will typically hit 1200-1400 Wh/mi, so even if the cooling problem is solved then you are only going to get ~60mi so less than a Formula E race. My non-P hits 318kW, but I am sure the Formula E cars at only 170kW are far faster because they are so much lighter.

    If you are going to run a real race series, I don’t think it would be too unreasonable to do some work on the cooling system, though I suspect the real limitation is cooling the rotor in the motor, which would require a different design for performance driving. Maybe instead of worrying about offending Tesla, work with them on some simple modification to improve cooling – bigger heat exchangers, compressor, and higher-flow-rate through the drivetrain should get some additional margin.

  • The Tesla Model S is getting hot very fast at the Nordschleife (Video: http://addicted-to-motorsport.de/2015/08/06/video-tesla-model-s-p85d-auf-der-nordschleife-850-btg/)… I think it will be the same issue at other racetracks :/

  • Alec Arho Havrén

    Dear Mark,
    Congrats on your efforts. The inaugural race ought to take place on the world’s first sustainable race circuit, GotlandRing. There all vehicles can be charged 100% on wind power. The Swedish track is situated on the island of Gotland, the most popular Swedish summer destination, an eco region. The track is challenging and follows international standard in track safety. You are welcome to contact me through [email protected], +46 731 822 822 (right now I am in California)

    Best reg,


    Alec Arho Havrén, Founder/CEO