Electric Cars Hit Milestone With First Grand Prix Race Ahead

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Electric Cars Hit Milestone First Grand Prix Ahead

Leonardo DiCaprio’s new FIA E team adds glitz to a designed to showcase EV performance.


Published January 5,

Electric cars have a corner in their drive to the mainstream. Soon, you’re to be able to watch them at high speeds.

The world’s fully electric Grand racing series, the FIA Formula E  launches this year. It pit single-seat electric-powered racers one another on ten center-city street from Beijing to Los Angeles and from Rio de Janeiro to Monte and Berlin. (See related post: How Does Electric Up to Gasoline on the Race Track? )

The public demonstration of the car that all ten will use, the Spark-Renault is set for Monday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and in Las Vegas. A former F1 driver, Lucas de Grassi, the official driver for the Formula E, will be the wheel of the vehicle, which was by Spark Racing Technology with a consortium of some of the motorsports manufacturers, including McLaren, Renault, Williams, and (See related quiz: You Don’t Know About and Fuel .)

Formula E’s quotient ramped up substantially in weeks, with announcements teams will be fielded by star and electric drive Leonardo DiCaprio (paired the French luxury electric Venturi Automobiles ) and by billionaire Branson’s Virgin Group. competitors include conventional racing teams, like teams Andretti Autosport and Jay Dragon Racing, as well as that focus entirely on technology, like Drayson of the United Kingdom.

The future of our depends on our ability to embrace clean-energy vehicles, said in a statement. (See related: Cars That Fired Our Relationship With Fuel .)

But organizers also have to highlight an EV advantage beyond low and cheap fuel. The Formula E aims to help make cars more sexy, Formula E spokesman Tom Phillips. The single-seaters are expected to achieve and acceleration on par with conventional running at 150 miles per hour kilometers per hour) and streaking a dead stop to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 2.9 so you’ll have plenty of said Phillips.

Boosting the series’ visibility and Broadcast deals have now signed with FOX Sports and TV Asahi, and Boston Celtics Wyc Grousbeck and his partners have a reported $21 million in the series. And car advocates say this is only the They argue that as EV continues to evolve and improve, the performance of the inherently more electric motor could traditional internal combustion racers a run for their money.

Of and Speed

Of course, you won’t be electric cars competing internal combustion vehicles at or Formula 1 races in the near Batteries that would be enough to fit into a race car aren’t ready to push the the fast enough, or for long (Related: Supercomputing Power Pave the Way to Energy-Efficient Engines .)

On courses, EVs could become far competitive with conventional when performing at peak, to the battery-boosting benefit they from regenerative braking on the tracks. But batteries light to keep up with combustion still don’t last enough.

This will all be of the sport in the upcoming Formula E Each team will use two electric cars per race. the course of the one-hour race, must make two mandatory pit to change cars. Phillips that the two cars will the race if the driver manages the power correctly, much as a Formula 1 driver manages wear through the course of a But a driver who pits too late may run out of power and won’t be able to the race.

We hope it will for some exciting racing and interesting team strategies, Phillips.

For race viewers, the may serve to underscore one of the main of current EV technology—limited range. But pit are part of racing from to Formula 1, and many fans their amazing displays of teamwork and speed. Formula E offer its own unique version—a (109-yard) driver dash the pit lane from one vehicle to the

While advances in batteries be needed to improve EV range, on the racetrack and off, today’s car technology already can deliver speed.

Experimental electric already have achieved speeds of more than 180 mph km/h.) (For comparison, in the Grand Prix ever. in the winner completed the race at mph (247.9 km/h).) And an Ohio University student-built car known as the Bullet holds the current record for an electrically powered vehicle at just a shade 308 mph (496 km/h). (The speed record for a wheel-driven combustion vehicle is a shade 439 mph (706.5 km/h).)

The performance of electric driving is becoming clear, said engineering Giorgio Rizzoni. lead adviser to the Ohio State which is also backed by Even in a typical hybrid, for you can think of the electric power on as something that might a nice boost and make a with a smaller gasoline feel more like a car.

His students are focused on it a step further. How do you push technology to make smaller and powerful electric drive he asked. Most importantly, how do you maximum performance from the batteries we’re using. them to the absolute limit?

The Advantage

No design or technical has supercharged the potential for electric like lithium-ion batteries, EV say. Consumers who use smartphones and daily reap the benefits of research and development dollars over the past two decades. But for EVs, the payoff is power.

talking about a six-to-seven-times in straight automotive powertrain (over older lead batteries), all made possible by the batteries, said electric car John Waters. who led the battery-pack of the General Motors EV1 and Electric vehicles that hit U.S. briefly in the late 1990s. the beginning of the last frontier for storage from what we of the elements. Lithium is the lightest on the elemental chart, and just as it was to consumer electronics batteries in the 1980s and 1990s we’re it now to vehicles. (See related:  Seven Ingredients for Better Car Batteries .)

Even the best modern aren’t as energy-dense as a combustion like gasoline. But EVs are able to for this limitation because of the efficiency of the electric motor. engines simply can’t even with a head of more than a century.

about 14 percent to 26 percent of the from the fuel put in an internal engine gas tank is used to the car down the road. The rest of the is lost, mainly as heat and

The combustion engine is kind of a Goldberg design of torque and that we grew up with and for granted, Waters said. No one on looking to design an engine for the time, would say, go explode a bunch of carbon to make a piston move up and and then turn a huge, thing called a crankshaft, is then connected to a big flywheel and connected to a transmission and then to that move a drive and so on until eventually, a wheel and finally turn and a car actually moving.

Electric motors, by operate at efficiencies of more 90 percent because they are far simple and lose less along the way. You store in a box, which is connected by a to a motor that doesn’t need a differential, a complex or a crankshaft, but just a simple Waters said.

An electric is instead connected to a controller, serves as a kind of throttle regulates how much of the always-available is sent to the engine at a given when demanded by the accelerator Acceleration is snappy in many vehicles because torque is on the electron flow from the It’s instantaneous, the same way a dryer blower motor from off to full spinning in an instant.

In an EV, there is no clutch, multispeed or variable power derived rotating shafts of a combustion which can vary dramatically—as by the rpm gauge on your dashboard.

For all reasons, Waters argues EVs have the potential to far outshine race cars in performance. not black magic, it’s plain physics, he said. And not really a tree-hugging conversation. In it’s purely about or new ways we might be able to go on the track. (See related Students Design Super-Efficient in Eco-Marathon .)

Design and Build

working on high-speed racing EVs are to explore new ways of squeezing out of their vehicles in a way that’s no possible in conventional auto EV performance car engineers design own engines, cut weight, improve aerodynamics, create their own and generally pull out all stops in the of going faster.

While racing organizations once similarly, most of them impose serious restrictions. To cars from going too and endangering drivers, and to promote and competitive races, organizations NASCAR to IndyCar enforce rules and standards that vehicles and have have some of the innovation that drivers ever faster in earlier days. For example, the series saw its fastest unofficial lap in 1997 at 242.333 mph (389.997 but safety rules now keep in the 220s. The series raced for six with only a single supplier before lifting restriction in 2012.

Teams can’t make many modifications, or design their own and aerodynamic parts.

Members of the State Buckeye Bullet believe the process of custom-designing and of parts will enable to someday challenge the land records of combustion engines. For they are focused on remaking and a part found in EVs called a consisting of an inverter, which or inverts DC current from the to AC current that powers the

This technology in the kind of range we need for these has only existed for industrial Rizzoni explained. And those are like the size of a refrigerator, not you can put in a car. So with our industry we’re working hard to things and pack as much power as possible into as a package as possible.

As for the new Formula E series, it will be run as an championship, which means each team can design its own seeking the best way to achieve the for speed under far looser specifications set forth by FIA (the Internationale de l’Automobile, which is the race.)

Power From the Pedal

While it’s the of all race cars to go as fast as they also have to be slow down, especially in the tracks of road-course style Fortunately for Formula E, today’s technology enjoys an advantage combustion engines on such

In the past, Formula 1 racers to waste so much kinetic braking that the heat made their carbon discs glow red hot. organization adopted a system to the lost energy in 2009.) vehicles can use the motor itself to which means those units aren’t lost, but are converted to electrons and returned to the for later use. This braking doesn’t come play much on big oval like the Indianapolis Motor where strong braking is and battery power simply keep up with gas. But on tracks, where speeds are up to 200 mph and is frequent, regenerative braking can electric vehicles much energy efficient, and powerful. related: Pictures: A Rare Inside Carmakers’ Drive for 55 )

I’ve performed quite a bit of and data on this issue, Waters. If you manage the dynamics to as much of that kinetic as possible, which also you to downsize the brakes and [save] an electric car has parity or a potential compared to a combustion engine for course racing.

From to Driveway

Performance electric aren’t limited to the racetrack. The Model S. honored as 2013 Trend’s Car of the Year, boasts a 0 to 60 mph of just 4.2 seconds when it is with the P85 85kWh performance That puts it right up among the fastest consumer sedans on the market. The Model S out at 130 mph (209 km/h). (See Tesla Motors’ Success Electric Car Market a Charge .)

Just as Tesla founder Musk’s innovations have the entire EV industry, Formula E is to foster through the thrill of advances that will consumers. If we can sort of accelerate the that’s used, it can filter to the average road car, like it does in any car from the to the road, said Tom Phillips, the E spokesman.

John Waters that’s sure to happen, and a look at the past provides a map toward the cars of the future. related, China’s Electric Car Impressive, But Not Enough .)

Innovation place on the racetrack, that’s how was started, he said. It has always wealthy guys with cars, looking to push the Guys like Carl James Allison, Arthur and Frank Wheeler (founders of the Motor Speedway) were of the same pedigree as people seeing now entering the conversation the electric vehicle. (See U.S. Teenagers Are Driving Less: 4 Theories About Why .)

from Silicon Valley and Europeans tend to be very people and they are asking do we change a dirty sport to philosophies and technologies that are sustainable—but make sure still really entertaining to fans as well?’  (See While U.S. Probes What You Should Know Car Fires .)

This story is of a special series that energy issues. For more, The Great Energy Challenge .


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