The FIA-approved Formula E race series may only be in its second year, but it’s already created a lot of buzz in the motor racing world. And while not everyone agrees with its race format — where drivers battle one another in specially-designed single-seat electric race cars on temporary race circuits constructed in the heart of major cities around the world, swapping cars mid-race — it’s certainly helped to raise the profile of all-electric motorsport.
As well as bring a new generation of fans to the world of motorsport, Formula E has helped tackle misconceptions about electric cars, engaged some big sponsors in the field of eco-friendly motor racing, and even inspired the creation of other all-electric race series. As each race in the current series gets ticked off the race calendar, we hear or more and more companies, drivers and fans switching over the joys of zero-emission high-torque electric racing.
The latest two big names to consider joining the race series with their own teams? German automaker BMW and Japanese automaker Nissan, both of whom already produce their own production cars in the BMW i3, BMW i8, Nissan LEAF and Nissan e-NV200.
At least, that’s what to Autosport claims, citing multiple sources close to both companies which suggest that Nissan and BMW are looking to pair up with existing Formula E teams for the 2016/17 season in order to provide engineering expertise and funding, potentially becoming official manufacturers the following season.
Last year for its inaugural season, Formula E required all ten teams (and twenty drivers) to race in identical single-seat race cars designed and built by Spark Racing Technology and leveraging technology and components designed by McLaren, Williams, Dallara, Renault and Michelin. This year with the introduction of eight official manufacturers, teams are allowed to develop their own vehicle powertrains for the first time. Next year, manufacturers will be allowed even more freedom, developing their own battery packs and power circuitry too.
Historically, automakers have always used motorsport as a way to develop and refine cutting-edge technologies which eventually make it into production electric vehicles. BMW and Nissan, like most automakers, have a long history of working closely with a wide variety of different motosports over the years from single-seat race cars through to rally, touring car, endurance and yes, even the Japanese sport of drifting.
And while neither are currently official manufacturers for the current FIA Formula E race series, both are actively already involved with the championship.
That’s because as official vehicle partner to Formula E, BMW supplies the race series with specially-prepared BMW i3 electric cars and BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports cars for use as on-track medial and safety cars. Fitted with a qualcomm inductive wireless charging system, the cars are stationed at strategic points around the course, charging up wirelessly to facilitate expeditious deployment when needed.
Nissan meanwhile, while not directly connected to Formula E, is by association already part of Formula E, since its alliance partner Renault has been heavily involved with Formula E since day one.
Talking with Autosport, Nissan confirmed that it was conducting a ‘fact-finding’ mission into Formula E as part of its long-term strategy into motorsport, having pulled out of the LMP1 race series last year. In order to officially enter as a manufacturer however, Nissan would need to get mutual approval from the Renault-Nissan Alliance, since the two automakers have an agreement to generally not compete in the same race series.
Will other automakers jump on board? We think it’s likely. This year, Audi, Mahindra, Renault, and DS (Citroën’s premium brand) are all directly involved as manufacturers for the season, using their experiences in Formula E to help refine their production electric cars. Next year, Jaguar will join the lineup too as an official manufacturer.
Those who choose to join in will gain to benefit from Formula E. Those who don’t will miss out.
Which automakers would you like to see enter Formula E? Which automakers do you think won’t bother?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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