Newspaper article International New York Times

What Makes Formula E Cars Tick ; While They May Be Clean and Quiet, These Are Still Serious Racing Machines

Newspaper article International New York Times

What Makes Formula E Cars Tick ; While They May Be Clean and Quiet, These Are Still Serious Racing Machines

Article excerpt

While they may be clean and quiet, these are still serious racing machines.

So what, exactly, is a Formula E racing car?

Fans who like their racing with noise, smoke, gut-wrenching speed and other visceral, macho sensations would be excused for thinking that a quiet, clean electric car is a child's plaything. And yet, while a Formula E car is not as fast as a Formula One car, it is nevertheless a serious racing machine built by some of the world's top racing experts.

The cars of the nine teams racing in this second Formula E season have an identical chassis, built by Spark Racing Technology of France, which was founded by experts in many of the world's lower series of open-wheel racing. Many parts are provided by Dallara, an Italian chassis company. The drivetrains are built by the competing car makers involved in the series: Renault, Citroen, Mahindra and Audi. To save costs, the car is not made with the latest carbon- fiber materials that are used in Formula One, but with a combination of carbon and aluminum for the chassis, steel for the suspension and carbon and Kevlar honeycomb for the body work.

The aerodynamics are fixed, so settings do not need to be changed from race to race in the 10-race championship. But suspension settings can be adjusted and cars differ according to their different drivetrains, also known as powertrains.

"We have the challenge of finding the best architecture of the powertrain, of the full group of the engine, transmission, rear suspension," said Vincent Gaillardot, a Renault engineer with experience in several other series including Formula One, and who is the project leader in the series for Renault Sport. "That's what the constructors are doing, and we can see many different rear architectures this year, as it was the first time that the competition was open."

All the cars use the same batteries, which are designed, built and developed by Williams Advanced Engineering, a subsidiary of the Williams Formula One team. By far the biggest challenge in the series lies in developing and managing the battery.

Races last 50 minutes, but the car batteries remain charged for just over 20 minutes. …

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