When all-electric Formula E kicks off this year, it’s not just about entertainment

Formula E
A Formula E electric racing car at the Bloomberg Energy conference in New York

The Formula E electric racing car, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, at the Bloomberg Energy conference in New York

The Formula E electric racing car — the Spark-Renault SRT_01E — was on display at the Bloomberg Energy conference in New York on Monday, just the second time that it’s been shown off in the U.S. For those not following the FIA’s first all-electric auto racing series, it will kick off this September with races in 10 major city centers, starting with Beijing and ending up in London, and will feature an hour-long race with these new electric race cars.

Car racing has a long history of pushing the bar forward with the latest in transportation technology because of the extreme conditions (high performance and power and strict rules) and Formula E will likely do the same, CEO Alejandro Agag said in an interview at the event Monday. I’ve learned about this positive benefit of car racing over the years, attending the ReFuel electric car races in Laguna Seca, Calif., and reading about the Pike’s Peak electric motorcycle races.

The Formula E car at the Bloomberg Energy Summit in New York

The Formula E car at the Bloomberg Energy Summit in New York

Electric car and motorcycle racing can potentially deliver important breakthroughs and innovations for the future of electric vehicles. That’s one reason electric car companies like Renault, Tesla and others enter these races.

Agag says he hopes that in years two, three and four of the race, technology will start to improve as a result of the racing conditions and the race will evolve to incorporate that new technology. For example, for this year’s race, each driver actually uses two cars, switching cars halfway through, because the battery of the cars can only last half of the race (about 30 minutes) at such high performance and power. Agag hopes that someday, the hour-long drive can use just one car.

Formula E is also using social media tech to make its race more interactive than traditional Formula One. The five racing teams that get the most tweets and votes during the event will be able to use a few-second battery boost in the race, which could be the difference between winning and losing. That feature might not be traditional, Agag said, but it’ll be a lot of fun for spectators.

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