The All-Electric Formula E Race Series Is Poised to Be the Industry’s Next Hot Test Bed
Formula E, the electric formula-car series, seemed like a doomed political obligation when it made its debut in 2014. But its fourth season is set to kick off in December in Hong Kong, and in its first three seasons, Formula E attracted major automakers Audi, Jaguar, and Renault. In July alone, three more announced plans to join, and Audi formalized its intent to up its involvement, going from a partnership with one of the original teams to fielding a factory entry this season. Doomed? Hardly.
BMW will contest the 2018–2019 season, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche following a year later. Mercedes will be supplementing its effort in Formula 1, but Porsche is leaving the hybrid-racing program that gave it three consecutive Le Mans wins to prioritize Formula E.
“There is a big groundswell of movement into EV investment,” says three-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish, who heads Audi’s Formula E operation. “All of the brains that have been so dominant with other technologies are now focused on this.”
With increasing pressure on automakers to grow their EV programs, could Formula E become the industry’s cutting edge of R&D? “It’s not going to replace Formula 1 or the World Endurance Championship, but it’s got its own niche, just like electric [road] cars,” McNish said. “Not everybody is going to be driving an electric car in 2025, but many will.” And those buyers will have a bit of the prestige and glamour of Formula racing beneath their feet.