A few days ago, it was the final pre-season Formula E test day in Donnington Park. This is an important milestone that brings us closer to the first all electric FIA racing series which begins on 13 September in Beijing. With this exciting electric car racing championship afoot, I thought it was worth looking at some common electric vehicle challenges and if they relate to Formula E. In this blog, I will focus on range anxiety.
Earlier in June, I wrote about how Formula E will change our perceptions of electric cars. However, there are some common issues, such as range anxiety, that skeptics refer to as important barriers to EVs wider adoption. Having said that, I wonder if a large number of people remain skeptical of adopting EVs because of insufficient range – how will Formula E affect their perception of range anxiety?
Whilst most people seem to agree that range anxiety is mainly a psychological constraint rather than a technical issue, skeptics usually argue that electric vehicle technology plays a great part in this. Let’s now look at the Formula E car and some key technology features that affect its range.The Spark-Renault SRT_01E, has a battery and battery management system from Williams Advanced Engineering .The batteries are capable of producing 200kw, which is the equivalent of 270 bhp and can last between 25 to 30 minutes at very high speed. Once the battery runs out, drivers will need to swap cars in order to finish the one-hour races.
I think it is worth keeping in mind that Formula E will be the first time we encounter electric cars in such extreme driving conditions. Now, given that the driving style affects electric cars range, we should expect that as Formula E requires an aggressive driving style, the range will decrease faster. So, there are very different factors when driving the Formula E racing car than any electric car on sale.
In addition to this, I think we could even compare the so-called range anxiety that Formula E drivers might experience with another kind of anxiety that Formula 1 drivers face. If you find this confusing, just think of the extreme speed and conditions of Formula 1 including making sure of having enough fuels but also not a full tank that makes the car heavier, as well as having to maximise the distance on each set of tyres. To me, this does sound as stressful as having to swap cars in order to finish the race.
But is this the key point to how Formula E should affect people’s perception of range anxiety? Perhaps our thinking should focus on what we can do with electric vehicle technology, instead of what it does for electric cars. Given that this is the first fully electric car racing championship, it essentially encourages future advances in electric vehicle technology that will substantially extend their range. Within this framework, we can anticipate that by the end of the season, new technology will enable electric vehicles to last 45 minutes on a full charge or even finish the full race.
To conclude, Formula E will create a massive opportunity to bring all eyes on electric vehicles. In this blog, I thought we could start thinking about how the majority of people could react when range anxiety, one of the issues that electric vehicles usually get criticised for, is highlighted. My take on this is that although I expect criticism coming from skeptics, it’s an opportunity to educate people that range anxiety is not a new issue and that driving anxiety exists in other forms in conventional cars, in this case racing cars.
It does beg another question however – should we really be talking about range anxiety at all, or would it be better to think what Formula E means to future electric vehicle technology? As Alejandro Agag, Formula E Championship Chief Executive, highlights “We can help to accelerate advancements in electric vehicle technology and aspects such as battery life, infrastructure and pricing”.