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Driving the electric car of Formula E

Almost five years after the all-electric Formula One racing series made an exciting debut, the book is about to close in its fifth season. Crucially, this was also the first season with the new second-generation electric car of Formula E, which is faster, more durable and could help propel the series to a more legitimate territory of motor sport.

In April, I drove one on a racetrack.

In fact, I drove the car of the first generation of the series in 2017, but I've been eager to try the new one since it was announced in 2018. Not only does it look totally crazy, but it's a significant improvement in almost every way. The old car had a maximum power of 200 kW or approximately 268 horsepower. The second generation car (or "Gen2 car", as all athletes call it) reaches 250 kW or 335 horsepower. The maximum speed of the old car was 150 miles per hour; The new car reaches a maximum of 174 mph and can go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds. Considering that the series had only one race on this day five years ago, that's pretty good.

One thing that surprised me when I got behind the wheel of the new all-electric Formula E racing car in April is how easy it is to drive. There are no gears like that in the original car. Like its predecessor, it uses tread tires instead of racing slicks, so I did not have to worry about warming them up. exactly the proper temperature as you would in, say, a Formula One car. Even the halo, the flip-flop-like safety device that now sits on the cab of the car, disappeared in my vision when I was sitting.

The most surprising thing, however, was that the Gen2 Formula E car field easier to drive that first generation, and not just because I was driving it in a limited power mode. The accelerator is softer. The brakes are much more lenient and progressive than those of the old car (which were very easy to lock), thanks to a new cable brake design. The direction is more fluid and precise. In general, the field of cars like him shook less, something that is very easy to notice due to the lack of engine noise.

It's not that the Gen2 car is actually easyHotel driving It's not: 335 horsepower may not sound like much, but hit the accelerator too early when you get out of a corner or with too much badual attraction, and the electric motor and its instantaneous torque will send the rear wheels (and probably the car) spinning before you know it. The time to brake badly after eclipsing 100 miles per hour on a straight, and it really matters how lenient the brake pedal is. The circuit of Calafat, the track that led, is narrow and technical, and more than one person there that day turned or sent the car to gravel.

In addition, only a few laps in the Gen2 car, which weighs 900 kilograms (1,984 pounds) and has no power steering, my arms were fully cooked. Not to mention that I did not have to deal with all the other things that come with the competition in this car, like doing 12 hours a day in a simulator to prepare for a race or driving the battery level while fighting for the position a few inches away . The imposing walls of a street circuit.

Still, I felt comfortable enough with the Gen2 car that made the first generation feel like a prototype. In the old car, I felt like I was close to its limits. In the new one, I felt how much more I could handle.

The first generation Formula E car in action during the first race of the series in the city of New York in 2017.
Photo of Sean O'Kane / The Verge

So I relied purely on my memory, here; Mahindra Racing, the team that allowed me to drive the new car, also gave me some laps in one of its first generation cars in Spain. I was working with a new comparison, and the differences were obvious. Even after four seasons of development, the original automobile field as the beta version of Formula E, the one that helped the series solve all the problems.

That is basically true! It was known that the first generation car occasionally overheated. He used a battery that could only last about 25 minutes, which required drivers to run halfway through each race to change cars. It costs about half (about € 400,000, or about $ 445,000) than the Gen2 car, which is priced at just over € 800,000 (or about $ 900,000).

More than anything, the Gen2's composure told me that it is a car that can be pushed to the highest limits in the right hands. The specifications may be a bit more impressive on paper, but the refinements I noticed during my few laps in the badpit define a car that can handle more aggressive driving. The drivers are as much at the mercy of this new car as they were in the previous one, for example, they had to manually change the balance between the traditional brakes and the regenerative vomiting of the electric motor. every turn using a dial on the steering wheel.

Driving the car at the calafat circuit in spain.
Photo by Lou Johnson / Spacesuit Media

The genius of Formula E during its first seasons is that the organizers of the series did not fight for the deficiencies of the first generation car, but embraced them. They used these limitations for the advantage of the series. Do not the cars make a lot of noise? Great. Host cities love that. The batteries do not last long? Wonderful, the younger audience we are targeting has a short attention span anyway. Are speeds not blinding? Fantastic. Smaller street circuits will make maximum speed irrelevant, they will create more braking opportunities to send power back to the batteries, and they will. as well (once again) it will be more acceptable for the host cities, as they occupy less space.

Now, with a more solid, capable and frankly exciting car in the center of the series, not to mention the buy-in or some of the biggest automakers in the world such as Audi, BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche – Formula E The organizers are building on that basis. They have few limitations to work with, and they are in a strange position in the world of motor sports where they can now try even bolder The ideas, which could differentiate the series and, if they are sufficient, help define what the future of the races will be like. No pressure

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