Sunday, while Richard Branson exploded in space, 12 teams of 24 drivers in 24 electric racing cars competed in the 11th round of the 2021 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
The international series of fully electric single-seater racing cars returned for the fifth time on the 1.42-mile course at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in the Red Hook neighborhood of New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood. Now in its eighth season, a lot has changed since GreenBiz covered the inaugural event in 2017. For example, since 2018, the 45-minute race has been run in one car, rather than going through a second car halfway through due to limited battery life. Manufacturers participating in this season include BMW and Jaguar, whose drivers both captured checkered flags over the weekend (in Rounds 10 and 11, respectively).
When I was invited to Brooklyn to cover this year’s event, my first thought was that it seemed like a really cool thing to cover. I don’t know much (rather nothing) about the race, but reviewing the event inspired three main questions I wanted answered, including why I thought something I knew so little about sounded, eh good, sexy. Although I did not attend the event in person, I was able to have some time on Friday press day with Theodor Swedjemark, Communications and Sustainability Manager at ABB.
I wasn’t very familiar with the company at first, but the name was instantly recognizable – and not just because he’s the title sponsor of the race. ABB currently supplies 40% of DC fast chargers in the United States. Beyond electric vehicles, it is electrify maritime transport in the United States in new York and Washington State.
Liz Morrison: What’s the coolest thing about Formula E racing from your perspective, and what’s your favorite part every year?
Theodor Swedjemark: For me, that’s the whole concept of what Formula E is – it’s the future type of racing rather than the past. And that’s what really makes me the most excited every time. It’s kind of amazing, although I’ve been driving an electric car myself for quite some time now. But every time you go racing and see these cars and what they are capable of doing, you realize how far it has come and how much that has helped to create excitement and exposure. among the general public and promote the adoption of electric vehicles. I mean, it’s really wheel-to-wheel action – it’s people competing against each other at the highest level possible. It’s a matter of conserving energy, it’s a matter of tactical strategy, and they spend a lot of time analyzing the data. It’s a super perfect platform to show what the future is.
Morrison: What e-technologies have been developed and track tested that have made their way into the mainstream market?
Swedjemark: The big auto OEMs like Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, and Nissan really use it as a test bed for a lot of software, like the whole powertrain, so the engines, power electronics and everything in between. A single example from Jaguar is that after completing this series of races, which was a pre-race, they used the learnings to update the software in their Jaguar I-PACE and extend the reach of approximately 20 miles over existing infrastructure. So this is just one example, but very rarely do manufacturers actually make it known. But they learn from it, for example. Porsche learns all the lessons and implements them in its electric cars, as is the case with Mercedes and BMW.
Morrison: Do you have an example of new technologies being used this year? What’s new about the race this year, in general?
Swedjemark: We have this concept of “generation cars”, and it’s still on the second generation, so nothing fundamentally changes until the next generation of cars. But of course, they continually improve all the software in the powertrain and within the limits of what they are allowed to do, like in most motorsport. I wouldn’t say that there is nothing revolutionary new, but rather it is about continuously advancing the development of these critical components as part of the car and the overall setup. You can see this from year to year as they get more performance from the same car.
I would say that an important and interesting thing happened during the season is that for the first time in the history of Formula Two the cars raced on the same track as Formula 1, the classic track of the Monaco Grand Prix. So that’s pretty cool, and it really shows how fast it’s moving, so the cars are able to race on the exact same track in such a classic location.
If you missed last weekend’s race in New York City, don’t worry; Round 12 takes place in London in just 10 days. You can also watch the highlights from the race and more from Formula E Youtube channel.