Formula E Returns With Customized Cars

Electric racing returns next month with new power trains and other improvements

4 min read
Formula E Returns With Customized Cars
Under The Hood: The Amlin Andretti team tested a custom-built power train in August but had to replace the motor later in the month.
Photo: FIA

Formula E cars emerge from their team garages with a suddenness that seems incongruous. Even on their way to practice laps, the drivers turn their cars sharply from the garages and accelerate in apparent anger along the asphalt leading to the circuit. When the second season of the electric formula-racing series begins in late October, in Beijing, they may be able to drive with even more aggression: Unlike during the competition’s first season, each team can now choose its own power train and will also employ a host of smaller technology tricks learned from last year’s racing.

The first season was dominated by close jostling among the drivers: It began in Beijing with a crash that upset the two front-runners. Over the course of the next 10 races, no single team or driver took a definitive lead, and the championship was up in the air until the final lap of the last race. That may have been in part because the 10 teams were all using the same hardware. “This is the last year of such close racing,” predicts Deogracias Vidal, a mechanic for NextEV TCR, the team whose driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., won the first season’s individual champion­ship. “Next year’s motors will make a big difference,” Vidal says.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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