Here's why EV owners should care about Formula E

From race to road, Formula E is driving the next EVs

Formula E in Misano
(Image credit: Future)

Formula E is the highest level of motorsport for electric vehicles, and it's great fun to watch, but it's also a championship that features some of the manufacturers of the best electric vehicles that you can buy and drive for yourself. So why are the likes of Jaguar, Porsche and Nissan competing?

Well, first of all, they love racing, but it's also a fantastic way to break new ground with consumer EVs. At the recent Italian E-Prix in Misano, I was lucky enough to speak to a man far smarter than me, Jaguar TCS Team Principal James Barclay about how the team and the series' innovation in elite sport is paving the way for everyday improvement. 

"The best way to think about it is that the way the regulations are here in Formula E  is to ensure the investment focuses on the areas most relevant for consumers on the road." 

James explained that although elements like the chassis of Formula E cars are standardised across the grid, this is intentional so that the investment is instead spent on the 'manufacturer perimeter' – the parts that can differ by team and are directly relevant to road cars. Barclay explains that this includes "The electric motor, the inverter, the system software, all of the suspension, everything that drives the car forward and everything that charges the car. All of that learning is directly transferable."

Barclay was happy to provide specific examples too. One of the team's sponsors is WolfSpeed, experts in silicon carbide semiconductors. "In an automotive sense, it makes it more efficient when taking energy from the battery in the form of direct current and we take it to the inverter and invert it to alternating currents. Creating the ability to turn the motor and turn the wheels." When charging, the opposite happens in a process called 'switching'. This gives the car the ability to switch efficiently and quickly with minimal effort between power and efficiency. That technology first appeared in Formula E in 2017 and will be on all future JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) vehicles.  

Maserati Gran Turismo

(Image credit: Future)

Of course, charging is another area people often cite as a reason not to go electric. Formula E cars currently use 160-kilowatt chargers, which is half some commercial fast chargers, but the cars themselves are capable of charging up to 600 Kilowatts. 

Even more impressive, the current Gen3 car can regenerate up to 600 kilowatts under braking (up to 250kW from the front axle and 350kW from the rear). When breaking, the inverter turns the motor into a generator that returns energy to the battery. This is a feature of some of the best EVs already, but nothing like to this degree. 

Speaking to James, one thing is clear, the more those in Formula E can push ahead and innovate, the more can come to us folk in the slow lane.

To be honest, I'm not sure electric cars need to get any faster. Riding in an electric Maserati Gran Turismo on a 'hot lap' around the track, I was thrown all around the cockpit (great fun) and did well to hold onto my lunch.

Andy Sansom
Staff Writer

Andy is T3's Tech Staff Writer, covering all things technology, including his biggest passions such as gaming, AI, phones, and basically anything cool and expensive he can get his hands on. If he had to save one possession from a fire it would be his PlayStation 5. He previously worked for Tom’s Guide - where he got paid to play with ChatGPT every day. When it comes to streaming, Andy will have his headphones glued in whilst watching something that will make him laugh. He studied Creative Writing at university, but also enjoys supporting his favourite football team (Liverpool), watching F1, teaching himself guitar, and spending time with his dog.