The Formula E races are heating up and coming our way. After intense competition in far-flung corners of the world — Beijing (September); Putrajaya, Malaysia (November); Punta del Este, Uruguay (December); and Buenos Aires (January) — it’s on to Miami on March 14.
What? You don’t know what Formula E is? Why, it’s nothing more than the first global electric car race series. Yes, there are some challenges to EV racing, including the range of the cars and the fact that they don’t make growly noises on the track, but all indications are that the fans are turning out for the contests so far. And they do make a cool noise — a kind of high-pitched mechanical whine.
The cars are virtually identical, so the competition is evenly matched. (Photo: Formula E)
The Formula E cars, known as Spark-Renault SRT 01Es (the motor comes from McLaren) accelerate from zero to 62 mph (100 kmh) in just three seconds, and reach 140 mph. They cost $500,000 each, use lithium-ion batteries (just like street EVs) and put out 270 horsepower. “Think of them as Tesla’s ‘insane mode’ on steroids,” says sponsor DHL.
There are some oddities to the race series. To get viewers engaged, FanBoost allows them to vote online for drivers to receive a one-time, five-second “power boost” that acts like a virtual supercharger to increase their car’s output from 150 kilowatts to 180.
There are 10 teams competing. Each race so far has had a different winner, including Lucas di Grassi of Brazil (China), Sam Bird of Great Britain (Malaysia), Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland (Uruguay), and Antonio Felix da Costa of Portugal (Argentina). It’s hotly fought!
This isn’t a series for amateurs: Leading teams include Audi Sport ABT, Virgin Racing, Renault and Amlin Aguri. After Miami, it’s on to Long Beach (April 4), Monte Carlo (May 9), Berlin (May 30) and London (June 27). Some of the driver names are pretty familiar, too, including Marco Andretti (whose family is fielding one of two American teams), Nicolas Prost, Nelson Piquet, Jr., and Bruno Senna.
This series has been below-the-radar in the U.S., so if you missed coverage of the earlier races, here’s a blow-by-blow of the race in Malaysia. If you want to see the turn-by-turn racing, advance the cursor to the middle of the video: