Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Formula E Season Two Guide: The Cars

This season, Formula E takes it's first steps away from being a one-spec series, and gives the teams their first opportunities to succeed through technological developments. As part of our Formula E season two guide, we take you through the vehicular changes for season two and what effect they're likely to have on the running order this season.

So, what's changed for season two?

The aim of the series was to gradually, season-by-season, allow the teams develop their own technologies. Eight manufacturers have now been permitted to design their own powertrains, which include the e-motor, the gearbox, the inverter and the cooling system.

Wait, aren't there ten teams?

Yes, the teams who submitted applications to create their own powertrains are:

  • ABT Sportsline
  • Andretti
  • Mahindra
  • Motomatica (Trulli)
  • Renault Sport
  • Venturi Automobiles
  • Virgin Racing Engineering

This means that Team Aguri and Dragon Racing won't be developing their own powertrains this season. Team Aguri will continue to use McLaren's season one powertrain, and Dragon Racing will be buying from Venturi.

Dragon Racing. Picture: Octane Photographic Ltd.
Dragon Racing.
Picture: Octane Photographic Ltd.

So, will Team Aguri and Dragon Racing be at a disadvantage this season?

If the Venturi package is competitive, then Dragon Racing should be competitive. They were believed to have been talking to a couple of manufacturers about season two powertrains, so they were in a position to pick what they thought was the best solution.

Team Aguri's decision to run a season one powertrain is the bigger risk. They've been put off by the development costs, but are confident that they can have some success with continuity and reliability, which could be the case in the first half of the season, but as teams perfect their cars, that advantage may be quickly reduced.

How have the cars changed then?

The main gains will be on the grounds of efficiency and minimising the energy losses between the battery and the wheels. The interesting thing is how the teams have gone in different directions to achieve this. The season one units had five gears, but some teams have gone down to four gears, three gears and even one gear (or 'direct drive').

NEXTEV TCR confirmed long ago that they'll be running a 'dual motor' layout, too. Which is also on the grounds of efficiency and being able manipulate the power exactly how they want to. DS Virgin Racing are believed to be doing the same thing and it was thought the Renault e.Dams team were going to follow suit, but elected for a single motor.

Mahindra Racing Picture: Octane Photographic Ltd.
Mahindra Racing
Picture: Octane Photographic Ltd.

So, what's the best solution?

Nobody knows yet! In the first season of opening up the powertrains rules, everybody has different ideas about which way to go. Does having multiple gears give better performance refinement? Or are there bigger gains to made in minimising the losses through a 'direct drive' system? Maybe we'll have some tracks which suit one powertrain layout, and other tracks which are ideal for other configurations.

Who's looked good in testing?

The Abt, Renault e.Dams, and DS Virgin Racing teams have all taken turns at topping the pre-season test timesheets, with Venturi, Dragon Racing and Mahindra often mixing it in the top five. As is the case with all motorsport test sessions, it's hard to know which teams are completely holding back, but it's easier to see which teams are having dramas.

Andretti had so many problems with their season two challenger, that they decided to revert back to the season one powertrain, meaning their first problem-free test day was only on the final day. Trulli, who are running the Motomatica powertrain, have also struggled to get going, but are persisting with it regardless. The team of the reigning world champion, Nelson Piquet, are also having reliability issues with this season's NEXTEV TCR car, but after a slow start, they look to be getting to grips and were managing decent mileage by the end of the test, even if they weren't making any headline times.

So are the cars faster this year?

They are. The previous best lap time at Donington Park was beaten by over a second, and people are expecting bigger gains on the street circuits for which the Formula E cars are designed.

Amlin Andretti's Simona de Silvestro being towed back to the garage. Picture: Octane Photographic Ltd.
Amlin Andretti's Simona de Silvestro being towed back to the garage.
Picture: Octane Photographic Ltd.

The post Formula E Season Two Guide: The Cars appeared first on FormulaSpy.

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