Asia-Pacific News

Electric Cars to Race in Formula E

Roger Blitz|Leisure Industries Correspondent

Electric cars will compete in a new global formula racing series after a deal between motorsport’s governing body and a group of investors who plan to stage international races around city-center landmarks.

VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm | Digital Vision | Getty Images

The Formula E championship will start in 2014 and involve 10 teams and 20 drivers, the aim being to draw competitors from traditional F1 teams, electric car companies and global brands.

Jean Todt, president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, last year pledged to launch an electric car racing series in response to the European Commission’s desire to get the car industry to adopt more sustainable forms of energy.

But he has struggled to get several F1 teams to think about their environmental responsibilities.

The Formula E teams will be offered an evolution of a prototype vehicle for teams to compete in the 2014 championship.

The prototype vehicle developed by Formulec, a French maker of electric racing cars, is a two-gear machine that runs off lithium-iron batteries and weighs 780kg.

It has a maximum speed of 220km per hour, and an acceleration of 0 to 100km/h in three seconds. It can run for 25 minutes before needing charging, meaning drivers will have the use of a second car to complete the one-hour race.

In contrast, an F1 car, fitted with a 2.6-litter V8 engine with 750 horsepower, has a minimum weight of no less than 640kg, including the driver, and can have a maximum of seven gears.

F1 cars are capable of going from 0 to 100km/h in 1.7 seconds, and cars can reach speeds of more than 300km/h.

Although very different in nature, F1 cars have an electric power-boost system, called KERS, which harnesses energy from breaking and gives an 80 horsepower boost for six seconds every lap. From 2014, F1 cars must run electric-only in the pit lane.

The FIA has awarded the commercial rights for the electric car championship to a consortium called Formula E Holdings, led by Enrique Banuelos, a Spanish real estate developer who lost billions in the 2007 property crash and is now active in Brazil.

Another investor is Alejandro Agag, a former member of the European parliament, whose London-based Addax investment outfit has teams racing in GP2 and GP3 racing series. Mr. Agag will be the chief executive of Formula E Holdings, which will be based in Hong Kong.

“We expect this championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities,” Mr. Agag said.

Also behind the project is amateur racing driver Lord Drayson, former UK science minister, whose business, Drayson Racing Technologies, is a pioneer of green racing, and Eric Barbaroux, who runs Formulec.

Formulec will provide a prototype vehicle for teams to compete in 2014. The FIA said races will be staged in cities that prioritize the environment and clean mobility, with emerging markets targeted by the organizers.

Mr. Todt said he hoped the new series would attract a new and younger audience to motor racing.