What is formula E?
With the return of formula E this weekend (the 9th and 10th of April) in Rome, Italy and with the rise in viewership in both formula 1 and formula E last season we have broken down the rules, regulations and latest news in formula E.
Formula E is an international car race featuring the very best in electric cars. Eleven teams, including some big names like Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar and Nissan battle it out over 16 races to be crowned champion. Like Formula 1 each team has two cars and two drivers and score points in relation to their finishing position.
The difference between formula 1 and formula E cars?
At first look the formula E car looks a lot like the formula 1 car but there are a few major differences.
First off is the engine, while traditional formula 1 cars have petrol powered engines formula E cars have a battery pack, transmission and electric motor.
Another huge difference between the cars is the chassis, while formula 1 teams are required to design and construct their own body each formula E team must use the same chassis and battery pack. The formula E teams are allowed to design their own powertrain (the motor, transmission and inverter to convert DC power to AC power. They are also allowed to design and build their own rear suspension.
The next big difference between the two cars is the tyres, in a standard formula 1 race you might see teams changing the type of tyre the car is sporting depending on the weather. In formulae E all of the cars have one tyre type they race on, all weather tyres. This is to try and cut down on emissions whilst freighting the teams and cars from race to race. Less tyre types, less lorries, less CO2 emission. Each team can only replace their tyres twice, so they need to make sure the two sets last from practice to the end of the race.
The champions and championship
The Formula E championship is regulated by the ABB FIA and spit into two titles, one awarding the driver who has accumulated the most points over the season that lasts seven months, the other is awarded to the team with the most combined points from the two drivers.
The points are awarded using the standard FIA point system with the top 10 finishers awarded from 25 points for 1st and 1 point for 10th.
Drivers are also awarded 1 point for having the fastest lap if they are able to finish in the top 10 and 3 points for the Julius Baer Pole Position (fastest lap set during qualifier)
If the driver with the fastest lap fails to place in the top 10 the point will be awarded to the fastest lap set by a driver that did.
The race starts on the Friday with the shakedown, this gives drivers the chance to get to know the track and check the cars systems and performance. On the shakedown the cars power is reduced.
The drivers then have two 30 minutes practice sessions where they can fully open up the car and time their laps.
Once all drivers have had their shakedowns and practice laps the new to season eight qualifying format begins. The format sees the drivers split into two groups each with eleven drivers. The drivers set out according to their world championship position and have 10 minutes to set their fastest lap time. The fastest four drivers in each group then progress to the quarter finals, and eventually on to the final with the winner taking Julius Baer Pole Position.
Unlike formula 1 that last a set number of laps formula E lasts for 45 minutes, when the 45 minutes has ended the drivers must do one final lap. The teams and drivers must ensure they have managed their batteries efficiently to not only complete the race but to make sure they can reach top speeds on straights and give it one final push. The cars battery levels are shown on screen so viewers know who needs to slow down and who has power left in their car.
Formula E also has what it calls attack mode, attack mode is a power boost system that was introduced in the 2018/19 season. Power mode gives the drivers a temporary boost to help them overtake the cars ahead. Attack mode can only be activated by going through an activation zone that is marked on the track.
On top of attack mode formula E also has a feature known as fanboost. The unusual feature allows fans to vote for their favourite racer on twitter or the formula E official website. The five drivers that receive the most votes receive a five second burst of power in the second half of the race.
Is Formula E zero emission and sustainable?
Despite Formula E promoting electric vehicles and being able to race in city centres due to the low emissions the cars themselves produce the event isn't quite zero emission yet. According to Formula E’s official website last season the event had a carbon footprint of 45,000 tCO2-eq*
The majority of the races carbon footprint (72%) comes from freighting the teams and race infrastructure around the world. 14% comes from staff travel, 6% from spectator travel and 4% comes from catering.
Formula E has announced plans to start looking at more sustainable freighting methods like train and ship. They are also looking at providing food and drink with a lower carbon footprint for both staff and spectators.
Where can I watch Formula E?
If you would like to tune into the race in the UK you can watch it on Channel 4, online via All4, the channel 4 youtube and the Formula Es official youtube channel.