The Skills for Go­ing Elec­tric

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Brad Spur­geon

The For­mula E se­ries, now in its sec­ond sea­son, is the first cham­pi­onship to use fully elec­tric rac­ing cars, which are not onlyslow­erthanFor­mu­laOnecars­bu­talso don’t have their ma­cho ca­chet. Yet the elite driv­ers com­pet­ing in the elec­tric se­ries say sin­gu­lar skills are re­quired to drive th­ese race cars that feel and be­have like no other. Jean-Éric Vergne, a French­man who is a re­serve driver for the Fer­rari For­mula One tea­manda­full-timeFor­mu­laErac­er­forthe DS Vir­gin Rac­ing team, said the For­mula E cars were chal­leng­ing to drive. “You don’t have the down­force, you don’t have the grip, you have ob­vi­ously less power, the car is heav­ier, the tracks are a lot more dif­fi­cult, more nar­row, more bumpy,” he said. “It makes it quite tricky to drive. In some cor­ners, at 250 kilo­me­tres an hour in For­mula One that would go flat out, easy, the­samecorner­inFor­mu­laEmight­beonly at 200, but it would be on the edge and you are kind of sweat­ing at the end of the cor­ner, you know: ‘This one is done, now next one.”’ In a se­ries in­spired by con­serv­ing the world’s en­ergy re­sources, driv­ing the For­mula E car suc­cess­fully in­volves strate­gic use of bat­tery life. For each race, the driver has a max­i­mum power of 170 kilo­watts of en­ergy at top power, and so strat­egy is about cal­cu­lat­ing how to pace the use of en­ergy over the course of the race. For the en­ergy man­age­ment, Jac­ques Vil­leneuve, the 1997 For­mula One world cham­pion, who com­peted in three races for the Ven­turi For­mula E team this sea­son, said that one of the main dif­fer­ences be­tween an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine and For­mula E’s elec­tric en­gine is the lat­ter’s use of more power to save en­ergy, which is coun­ter­in­tu­itive. “You­use­lessen­er­gy­athigh­revsthanat­low revs,” he said. “So that’s the op­po­site. It is more ef­fi­cient. So that is also very con­fus­ing. If you are be­hind a safety car, you have to be at high revs.” Although it’s clear that the For­mula E ve­hi­cle is a rac­ing car, Karun Chand­hok, a for­merFor­mu­laOnedriver­fromIn­di­awho raced in For­mula E last year, said that driv­ing one was still not so sim­ple. The se­ries has pur­pose­fully re­stricted the teleme­try from the car to the team, which means that team en­gi­neers don’t know how much en­ergy re­mains in the bat­tery. The driver has to do math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions based on a read­ing from the dash­board on ev­ery lap. He can re­lay the in­for­ma­tion to his team, which will then guide him. “There are two things,” Chand­hok said. “One is the ac­tual amount of power, which is 170 kilo­watts, and the other is you have the amount of en­ergy, at the rate of 28.0 kilo­watt hour, which you are al­lowed to use for the race.” “So let’s say the race is 40 laps,” he added. “You do 20 laps roughly in each car — you have two cars — so you do be­tween 19 and 21 laps, and so you have to di­vide 28 by 20, so that’s 1.4 per lap, and ev­ery lap you are hav­ing to do the math. And you are hav­ing to tell the en­gi­neer: ‘At the mo­ment my dash­board­says25.6,’and­hewil­l­sayy­ouare on tar­get or you are be­low tar­get.” With lit­tle en­gine noise and vi­bra­tion, the For­mula E en­vi­ron­ment is un­like that in the in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion races that most driv­ers have long been ac­cus­tomed to, from go-karts to the high­est cat­e­gories of rac­ing. What is not widely known — even among rac­ers — is how much a driver de­pends on those sen­so­rial el­e­ments for rac­ing. “It ba­si­cally would be like play­ing a rac­ing game, a video game, and turn­ing off the vol­ume of the en­gine noise,” said Vil­leneuve.

The New York Times

Nick Hei­d­feld of Mahin­dra Rac­ing For­mula E Team dur­ing the Buenos Aires ePrix

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