While some details have already been announced, Formula E has officially unveiled its Gen3 car today ahead of this weekend’s Monaco E-Prix. There will be big changes in power and efficiency when the new cars hit the track next season, but the vehicles will also have a new look that differs from the current second-generation design. Formula E has even gone so far as to call the Gen3 ‘the most efficient race car in the world’.
Until now, Gen3’s main focus has been on massive upgrades to performance and efficiency, but the car also features a new overall body design. Hubcaps have been removed from both the front and rear, making the new model more of an open-wheeled car. There are also no individual wings over the rear wheels. Instead, Gen3 has two jet-like fins on the back. That’s because the car’s aerodynamic shape is inspired by combat aircraft, and the vehicle does indeed look a bit like a more modern F-18 on wheels.
Formula E hopes the new design, which is both lighter and smaller than the Gen2 model, will allow for more entertaining racing. Like the new Formula 1 cars that debuted this season, Gen3 is built for more speed, but also for more “agile” wheel-to-wheel racing. Any tweak that allows for more duels on the track usually means a better viewing experience for fans. In addition, these cars should be two to four seconds faster in both qualifying and racing conditions.
“The Gen3 is a creature designed for its habitat: racing the city streets in wheel-to-wheel combat,” Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle said in a statement. In fact, the series says this is the world’s first race car specifically designed and optimized for street circuits. With that in mind, it’s fitting that the series would debut the vehicle in Monaco, where last year’s E-Prix saw half a dozen lead changes and over 60 overtakes.
When it comes to powertrain, Formula E says the Gen3 car is the “most powerful, lightest and fastest race car yet,” Reigle said. “Formula E’s Gen3 race car represents a leap forward for motorsport and electric mobility,” he explains. “Designed to demonstrate that high performance, efficiency and durability can be packaged together without compromise.”
Inside, an electric motor can deliver 350 kW (470 hp) to reach top speeds of 200 MPH (320 km/h). In addition, Formula E explains that the power-to-weight ratio of the Gen3 is twice as efficient as the power of a comparable internal combustion engine (ICE). For reference: Formula 1 cars average speeds between 220 and 230 MPH during a Grand Prix, depending on the track layout. Then there is the engine efficiency. Formula E says the electric units can convert more than 90 percent of their energy into mechanical power, compared to about 40 percent for an ICE engine.
“The overall performance of the car will be much faster than we have today,” Roger Griffiths, team principal Avalanche Andretti Racing, told Engadget. “That’s the exciting thing – the combination of the reduced weight, electric powertrain and regeneration. Two to four seconds faster on the track is huge.”
Gen3 doesn’t just rely on batteries for power. About 40 percent of the energy that cars use during an E-Prix is produced by regenerative braking. This will also be the first ever Formula car with both front and rear drivetrains, adding 250 kW to the 350 kW in the rear. All this combined for a total of 600 kW, which is more than double the regenerative capacities of the Gen2. Another first for a Formula car, the Gen3 will not be equipped with hydraulic rear brakes thanks to the addition of the front drivetrain and its regenerative output.
“As drivers, we are always very excited to race cars that are more competitive with more performance and more efficiency,” ROKiT Venturi Racing driver Edoardo Mortara told Engadget. “With this new Gen3 car, it will be lighter, more powerful and more grippy. [racing] more fun.” Mortara said the second front drivetrain could be challenging, requiring a new driving style and enabling new racing strategies from the current Gen2 car.
Of course, sustainability is also an important part of the overall Formula E mission, and Gen3 certainly takes this into account. The series says this will be the first Formula car to feature Life Cycle Thinking, or how to handle used components once they’re taken out of service. In this case, there is already a “second life” for recycling tires, parts and battery cells.
For the new Hankook tires, Formula E says a new process ensures that the overall composition includes 26 percent sustainable materials, including natural rubber and recycled fibres. The series plans to use the same process as the aerospace industry for recycling carbon fiber to produce material that can be used in other applications. In fact, recycled parts from the current Gen2 cars will be used to make components for the new vehicles. According to Formula E, this is the first time recycled materials have been used in the body of a Formula car. Finally, Gen3 will be a zero-carbon car, in line with Formula E’s achievement as the first zero-carbon car. And that includes strict sustainability benchmarks for suppliers.
“For me, efficiency is the most important thing,” Dilbagh Gill, director of Mahindra Racing, told Engadget. “If you look at each parameter, it’s more optimized. 40 percent regeneration is so great, and I think this is something that will apply to road cars in the future and something that we will learn a lot from.”
Although Formula E itself has done some tests and simulations on the track, the teams have yet to start driving the new car. The series says that seven teams – DS Automobiles, Jaguar, Mahindra Racing, Maserati, NIO 333, Nissan and Porsche – have signed up to the FIA to race the Gen 3 car in Season 9. Pre-season testing will begin this winter.
Gallery: Formula E Gen3 † 5 photos
Gallery: Formula E Gen3 † 5 photos
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