Formula E: motorsport rises to the challenge of green energy

Nobody quite believed it could happen. Until now, Formula 1 had something of a reputation for promoting energy wastage and encouraging the ongoing dominance of fossil fuels. But since 12 September, when the first electric Formula 1 season was launched in Beijing, the race track has become a showcase for green energy.With a 272-horse power single-seater capable of a top speed of 225 km/h, Formula E can certainly hold its own against F1According to Bernard Salha, EDF’s head of R&D, “This Formula E championship is a huge testing ground for electric vehicles. History has shown that ideas developed within motorsport, such as onboard computers, new braking systems and new tyres, have always gone on to benefit the general public.” EDF also sent two of its in-house researchers off to the paddocks in China, to investigate in detail, how the engines work when pushed to their full capacity – and it will be doing the same at each of the nine, new competitions that are coming up.The battery challengeEngineers particularly need to look at the way batteries perform, in terms of how long they last and how safe they are. “All this research, looking at how we can improve battery life, reduce their weight and size, or even cut the time they take to recharge, is helping to improve electric cars for your average person,” explains Bruno Crescent, member of the new energy commission at the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and head of purchasing at EDF Group.As far as safety is concerned, the spectacular crash between Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld really put vehicles’ safety features to the test. “This is a major challenge, especially if there’s a fire. If the battery is left on, the fire hose creates a spark that electrocutes everyone. And to avoid the battery overheating, the FIA has also put in place a device that tracks the temperature of all 250 cells in real time,” advises Salha.As a testing ground, this motorsport championship is not unlike its big brother, except for the way in which the cars are changed during the race, which makes it a showcase for lots of different vehicles. “This championship will help to make electric cars more acceptable. If even the F1 guys are getting involved, that really shows that these cars aren’t just utilitarian objects, there’s pleasure to be gained from them as well,” reckons Salha. With a 272-horse power single-seater capable of a top speed of 225 km/h, Formula E can certainly hold its own against F1. And on the other hand it can also boast a vehicle competition that didn’t emit any CO2 or any particles into the air and didn’t deafen everyone. This story has only just begun.To go furtherElectric cars now reaching higher speeds

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