Mercedes and Porsche join Formula E: Turn focus away from conventional motor racing.

Formula E is the racing series of electric vehicles, or the electric alternative to Formula 1 – except that it’s brand new. Open wheel electric cars race on temporary street circuits. Their shape is pretty similar to F1 cars, but they’re electric. They have much less speed (the maximum that a Formula E car can do is 225 kph). The series was conceived in 2012, and has since attracted some major manufacturers. Various companies are involved, namely Renault, Audi, Mahindra, and Faraday Future which focuses on manufacturing electric road cars.

The series is futuristic. There’s zero emissions involved. The technology is improving. Earlier, the drivers had to switch cars midway through the race due to the short battery life, but now they run the same car throughout.

With carbon emissions rising throughout the world, more and more emphasis is being placed on hybrid and all electric technology. Formula 1 itself has adopted a hybrid model of technology, where some portion of power in an F1 car is harnessed by a battery. Many car manufacturers have taken initiatives to build electric variants of their conventional road going models. Mahindra has an electric car called the E2O, Audi developed an electric version of their super car, the R8 E-tron, Mercedes also developed an electric version of the AMG GT, while McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche all have hybrid hyper cars. On the other hand, there are companies that are purely focused on creating electric and efficient cars. Tesla and Faraday Future come to our mind, although Tesla creates far more efficient, albeit expensive electric cars.

Recently, both Mercedes and Porsche decided to pull out of existing racing series that they had been dominating, to enter Formula E by 2019. Mercedes have pulled out of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) which is the racing series of German manufacturers, namely Mercedes, Audi and BMW. Porsche have pulled out of the WEC, a series that they  have performed well in the last few years, winning the 24 hours of Le Mans since 2015. So, the intention is clear. More and more manufacturers are taking a step into designing cleaner cars. Cars of the future, which will have zero emissions. And, they will have the platform to show their technology: Formula E. It’s much like F1, where a technology first gets introduced and then makes its way into road cars. Besides, Formula E has closer racing than what one gets to see in F1. It’s less appealing though, due to the lack of noise, but has still managed to gain considerable fan following in the past few years. With giants like Porsche and Mercedes also joining in, more and more people will be drawn towards the series.  Besides, it will be good for their business as well. With Tesla Motors gaining recognition for their highly efficient electric cars, and countries becoming more open towards electric cars, major road car manufacturers cannot afford to be left behind.

Unlike some people that have mentioned that motor racing is dying a slow death, I don’t think so. Series like Formula 1 and WEC will continue to run, but they will find newer alternatives to reduce emissions. F1 cars of today are already very efficient, and they don’t require any refueling during the race. The engines are hybrid, with some power coming from a battery. So, once the sport finds itself in danger, the people who run it will find ways to adapt to the situation and stay in the game.



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