Formula E’s new electric race car is lighter, more powerful and more agile

Formula E's new electric race car is lighter, more powerful and more agile
enlarge This is our first look at Formula E’s Gen3 race car, which will debut next season.

Formula E

On Thursday, ahead of this weekend’s Monaco E-Prix, Formula E finally unveiled its next electric race car. It is called the Gen3 car because it is the third generation used by the series and will be introduced early next season.

A lot of the comments online have been about the car’s unconventional look, at least in terms of what people expect race cars to look like. But then people reacted the same way to the Gen2 vehicle. The new bodywork is more sustainable than before, with linen and some recycled carbon fiber (from retired Gen2 cars), which Formula E says will reduce the Gen3 car’s carbon footprint by 10 percent.

The new Formula E car is smaller than the previous version, with a narrower track and shorter wheelbase. It has also gone on a diet, reducing the car’s mass from 903kg of Gen2 to 760kg, which for context is just lighter than a current F1 car. The weight reduction of the Gen3 is accompanied by a significant power increase: from 250 kW (335 hp) to 350 kW (469 hp), applied to the rear wheels. With a top speed of 200 mph (320 km/h), we expect lap times to be significantly faster than before.

But for the first time since the sport’s inception, EV race cars will finally have an engine-generator unit up front as well. In this application, it is better to think of it as a generator, because Gen3 will not be four-wheel drive in terms of deploying energy. But it gives the car the ability to regenerate up to 250 kW on the front axle during braking and 350 kW on the rear axle. This ability means that the cars will become more efficient than the Gen2 machines, which can only regenerate from the rear axle.

As before, manufacturers will design and build their own rear MGUs. But the front MGU will be the same in every team, supplied by Atieva, part of the same company that also includes Lucid Motors. Atieva previously supplied battery packs for the Gen2 car, so Formula E is no stranger.

But Gen3 has a new battery with new suppliers. The pack was designed and built by Williams Advanced Engineering and now uses pouches (as opposed to cylindrical) cells made by Total Saft. It’s designed to charge up to 600 kW – i.e. maximum regeneration on both axles – and the press materials suggest there may be some form of fast charging during the race, although I may be misinterpreting that the cars can regenerate up to 600 kW. It is not yet known exactly how many kWh the drivers will have available at the start of the race; the Gen2 car uses a 54 kWh (net) battery pack.

The Gen3 car still looks like few other open-wheel race cars, and that's okay.
enlarge The Gen3 car still looks like few other open-wheel race cars, and that’s okay.

Formula E

So far, only one person has driven the new car: Formula E test driver Benoit Treluyer, who quoted by The Race such as describing the Gen3 car as “a seriously fast and nimble race car.”

Seven manufacturers will compete in Season 9, including DS Automobiles and Maserati (both brands of Stellantis), Jaguar, Mahindra, Niro 333, Nissan and Porsche. But you shouldn’t have to wait that long to see good races. Unlike Formula 1, Formula E cars have put on an exceptionally good show in Monaco on previous visits, and this year’s race should be no exception. You can watch it Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.