Green Motorsports: Formula E Hong Kong Begins New Season

Green Motorsports: Formula E Hong Kong Begins New Season

Hong Kong Hosted Two Days of Wild Racing

FIA Formula E kicked off its 2017-2018 electric car racing series over the weekend on the city streets of Hong Kong. The two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday provided fans of the Formula E Hong Kong ePrix plenty of excitement. This is the forth season for Formula E and the second time the opening race was staged in Hong Kong.

Sam Bird Snags Surprise Saturday Victory

At the half-way point of the Hong Kong ePrix, when drivers change race cars, all bets were off that the Virgin Racing driver had a chance to win the opener. Bird entered the pit lane anxious to retain the advantage he’d built over Techeeta’s Jean-Eric Vergne, but attacked his marks too aggressively on the dusty surface and slid to a halt outside the front of his garage.

Formula E Hong Kong

Racing was tight to kick off the season

He managed to jump out and into his second car without losing too much time. However, Bird didn’t make his mandatory car change in the box allocated to the driver — picking up a drive-through penalty in the process. But it wasn’t enough to stop him.

There were several contenders in a hotly-contested battle as Bird faced his former team-mate Vergne for the majority of the opening stint. Vergne led the way from Julius Baer’s pole position, fending off the fast-starting Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld.

As the cars filtered through the tight chicane of turns 3 and 4, Formula E rookie Andre Lotterer collided with the wall—blocking a gaggle of cars behind. Lotterer was avoiding the bottleneck and pitched into the barriers on the outside, holding back Mitch Evans, Nico Prost, Edoardo Mortara and Neel Jani. The ePrix came to a halt as the incident brought out the red flags. After a 30-minute delay, the race got back underway.

On the restart, Vergne was in the lead but found himself immediately under pressure from Bird. Vergne’s mirrors were filled with Bird’s car and couldn’t hold him back after a lunge up the inside of the turn 6 hairpin. Bird then cruised to a 1.1-second win over Vergne, with Mahindra Racing’s Nick Hatfiesl placing third.

Felix Rosenqvist Spins and Wins on Sunday

Mahindra driver Felix Rosenqvist started in the pole position for Sunday’s race, then spun out of the lead at the first corner. That put rookie driver Edoardo Mortara, driving for Venturi, in the lead. The Swiss driver then led every lap and had the win in hand with a three-second advantage. But, with three laps remaining, he spun just as he turned into the right-hand hairpin in a mistake from pushing too hard to earn the extra point for the fastest lap. He quickly recovered after pirouetting into the run-off area and re-joined to finish in a disappointing third.

Formula E Hong Kong

The Audi e-Tron was fast, but ultimately not legal

This allowed Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Daniel Abt to sail past and take the checkered flag on his 25th birthday. Rosenqvist had made his way back through the pack after his spin to place second, followed by Mortara in third place. But, “it’s not over until the fat lady sings,” or in this case until the race cars go through post-race inspection.

An inspection of Abt’s car revealed that the FIA security stickers on the inverters and motors did not correspond with those declared on the car’s technical passport. The breach of technical and sporting regulations meant Abt was disqualified, ending his victory celebration and handing the win to Swedish rival Felix Rosenqvist, the second victory of his Formula E career.

Abt’s exclusion moved Mortara to second place, and New Zealand’s Mitch Evans was promoted to third to give Jaguar their first podium finish in the all-electric series they joined last year.

Saturday’s race winner Sam Bird now heads the drivers’ standings for DS Virgin Racing, with 35 points, as they head to the next Formula E race in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Jan. 13.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Green Motorsports: Porsche To Join Formula E

Green Motorsports: Mercedes Jumps To Formula E

Green Motorsports: Electric Race Cars in Brooklyn

Green Motorsports: Technology Driven Excitement



Green Motorsports: VW Builds Electric Racer to Take Pikes Peak

Green Motorsports: VW Builds Electric Racer to Take Pikes Peak

Goal Is to Set a Record on Hill Climb

Racing betters the breed. That’s conventional wisdom in automotive world. Volkswagen clearly believes that and is preparing to put its hardware on the line. VW announced that it is creating an electric prototype to make a run for a record on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado in June 2018. Accompanying the announcement was a teaser photo of the race car.

Volkswagen, VW Pikes Peak

VW Pikes Peak teaser

The significance of announcement is two-fold. It is a return to a race venue where Volkswagen previously competed 30 years ago. More important, it signals additional investment in electric vehicle technology—the path VW has chosen for its future. In its announcement Volkswagen noted that by 2025 the brand will have 23 all-electric models.    

Our electric race car will be equipped with innovative battery and drive technology. The extreme stress test posed by Pikes Peak will give us important feedback that will benefit future development, and it will showcase our products and their technologies,” said Dr. Frank Welsch, member of the Board responsible for development. VW added that the technology that will debut at Pikes Peak will be the foundation for some of its upcoming electric vehicles.

Race to the Clouds

The Pikes Peak hill climb, called the “Race to the clouds,” is known as the world’s most famous mountain race. The finish line of the 12.4-mile course is at 14,000 feet above sea level, climbing 4,700 feet. The current record for electric vehicles—8 minutes, 57.118 seconds—was set last year by Rhys Millen in a Hyundai-sponsored prototype. The next race will take place June 24, 2018. ”

The vehicle is being developed by Volkswagen Motorsport in close cooperation with Technical Development in Wolfsburg. “The race on Pikes Peak is a new beginning for us. We are developing an all-electric race vehicle for the first time,” explained Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. “The project is also an important milestone in our new motorsport orientation. Our team is literally electrified about taking on this incredible challenge.” Volkswagen Motorsport last participated in the Pikes Peak mountain race in 1987 with a spectacular twin-engined Golf which barely missed finishing. “It is high time for a rematch.”

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

News: Volkswagen Introduces I.D. Crozz

News: Volkswagen Microbus to Return as an Electric

Green Motorsports: Porsche Jumps to Formula E Electric Racing

Green Motorsports: Porsche Jumps to Formula E Electric Racing

Drops Out of Le Mans’ Top Tier Program

In a not totally unexpected move, Porsche said it is exiting the FIA World Endurance Championship (WFC), which includes the storied 24 Hours of Le Mans race, at the end of this year, and will compete in the all-electric FIA Formula E championship starting in season six (2019/20). The announcement came just five days after Mercedes-Benz announced it was leaving DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) racing, where it competes mainly on European road courses against its German luxury car rivals. Mercedes will also join Formula E in 2019.


Porsche looks to electric car racing to build the breed

Audi, which, like Porsche, is part of the Volkswagen Group, announced last October that it was quitting the WEC and Le Mans to shift resources to Formula E. Other manufacturers already involved in the electric series, whose third season ended this weekend in Montreal, Canada, include German rivals BMW as well as Renault, Jaguar, Citroen and India’s Mahindra.

The announcements by Porsche and Mercedes reflect the growing promotional importance of Formula E to automakers and for their future electric cars. Porsche’s first production electric model will be based on the Mission E concept car shown in 2015, but what Porsche learns from its factory Formula E team will likely influence all of its future electric cars.

Development & Racing

Like almost all of the other road car manufacturers who have entered the Formula E championship, Porsche will enter the pure electric race series with the interest of furthering its electric car development.

“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission E. The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us,” said Michael Steiner, board member for R&D at Porsche.

At the moment, the arrival of Porsche and Mercedes in the series for season six, will take to 12 the number of Formula E teams, but that could increase. Both Ferrari and Volvo have shown interest in the electric race series. And some of the smaller companies may not have the financial resources to continue.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Green Motorsports: Mercedes Shifts to Formula E

Green Motorsports: Formula E—Electric Race Cars in Brooklyn

Green Motorsports: Technology Driven Excitement

Green Motorsports: Mercedes Shifts to Formula E

Green Motorsports: Mercedes Shifts to Formula E

Another Manufacturer Joins Electric Car Racing Series

Mercedes is ditching the roar of four-liter fire-breathing V-8 engines for the hum and whine of electric motors. This isn’t a new product announcement (though they’re doing that, too), but it is related to future products. Daimler, Mercedes-Benz parent company, announced this week that it is pulling out of DTM racing, where it competes on mainly European tracks against its German luxury car rivals. The motorsports efforts will migrate starting in season six (2019/20) of the Formula E electric car racing series. 

Mercedes-Benz DTM

The roar of the gas V-8 will be replaced by electric motor whine

Patterned after the high-end Formula 1 series (in which Mercedes also competes), with which it shares a governing board, Formula E currently consists of 20 cars from 10 teams using standardized battery packs and  cars. Over the years participants have gradually been allowed more innovations on their powertrains, something the race series has promised to open up even more in the coming years.

That is part of the attraction for Daimler, which has announced the launch of its electric EQ sub-brand. “Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our attractive battery-powered electric vehicles under the EQ technology brand,” said Dr. Jens Thiemer, vice president of marketing, Mercedes-Benz Cars. “It is time to start a new path.”

The race commitment will mean Mercedes is joining Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Renault among major automakers already in the series. Given two German luxury marques are already involved, the Mercedes move should be looked at as almost a forgone conclusion.

Part of the Launch of the EQ Label

“Mercedes-Benz will market future battery powered electric vehicles using the EQ label,” explained Thiemer. “Formula E (gives) an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motorsport and marketing.”

Toto Wolff, managing partner of both the Formula 1 and Formula E teams, views Formula E as a brand new form of racing that reflects a rapidly changing automotive landscape.

Mercedes Benz EQ

Expect to see the Mercedes-Benz EQ brand in Formula E

“In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects,” he said. “The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that. Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies. Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.”

It’s clear that Mercedes will be spending the next two seasons scoping out the competition and planning to make its entry in a forceful way. Given its track record in Formula 1 and DTM, in motorsports “the best or nothing” translates into a quest for trophies.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Green Motorsports: Formula E—Electric Cars in Brooklyn

Green Motorsports: Technology Driven Excitement

Green Motorsports: Formula E—Electric Cars Race in Brooklyn

Green Motorsports: Formula E—Electric Cars Race in Brooklyn

New York Experiences Expanding New Race Format

Automotive racing works on three distinct levels.

Formula E New York City

Electric car racing is coming at you

First, it is blood sport and passionate point of engagement for enthusiasts, who hang on every turn and wheel-to-wheel contact.

Second, it’s a test bed for technology, where new tech development can be accelerated under the harshest of conditions, sometimes shortening the process of getting to market.

Finally, racing has always been about marketing—win on Sunday, sell on Monday. There may not be definitive proof of the premise, but there are enough true believers to keep a plethora of race programs prospering.

Electric car racing fits perfectly into this paradigm and it hit Brooklyn, N.Y., this weekend to make its point. The Formula E race series staged the penultimate race of its 12-race series on the Red Hook riverside of Brooklyn and here’s how it touched those three points.

For Enthusiasts

For enthusiasts, the racing was tight and fast—at least relatively. While the winning racers averaged only a shade more than 60 miles an hour, the 10-turn, 1.21-mile course was not designed for pedal-to-the-metal runs. That tight course down in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal kept the racers bunched but eventual winner Sam Bird from DS Virgin Racing led most of the way and finished 11 seconds ahead of the pack at the end. There were lead changes and wheel-to-wheel and wheel-to-wall contact, the stuff that gets and motorsports enthusiasts’ blood coursing. Mechanical problems kept some cars back and caused some teams to switch strategies between drivers.  

Formula E New York City

The cars were quiet, but racing that took place was loud

Like its parent racing program, Formula 1, Formula E is strongly international. The top finishers in this race heralded from England, Sweden, Germany, France and Brazil. Race team-owners came from England, India, France and Germany while other competitors came from the U.S., France and China.

For Technology

Formula E is technology-focused even more than the high-tech Formula 1 with its wind-tunnel crafted wings and worldwide telematics connections where race data is bounced through satellites to waiting technicians in control rooms a continent away.

Formula E New York City

Next year’s races promise more advanced electronics and batteries

The New York race featured not only two races with drivers, but parallel Roboraces that had driverless cars zipping around the track like slot-cars on steroids. The Roborace cars, due to their more streamlined and lighter stance, were capable of higher speeds than the piloted cars. Straight out of Silicon Valley, Nvidia’s new super chips are at the heart of the driverless cars’ systems.

Other tech companies deeply involved in the race series include Qualcomm and Hewlett-Packard. Enel, an Italian electricity and gas manufacturer and distributor, is the series’ energy partner. The company committed to offset all emissions related to the Brooklyn race’s staging and power through use of its clean energy generation, storage and management solutions. As one example, it created a microgrid at the track to handle the power needs during the race.     

Ten teams and 20 drivers competed in this year’s (the third year) Formula E series, which was staged in cities on five continents. The series had fairly strict limitations on its electric motors and batteries, but the organizers promised to open it up to more competition next year, which will put it right in the cross-hairs of the growing electric vehicle field.

For Marketing

Key automakers and suppliers are already pre-positioned, seeing the race series as a way of making sure the public views them as electric car leaders. Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Renault all have significant involvement in the race with teams.  

Formula E New York City

Sponsors’ presence was all around

Other companies have joined in for various reasons:

  • Virgin Racing, since electric cars seem to be another of Richard Branson’s many interests,
  • Mahindra Racing, since the world’s number one tractor company wants to be positioned for a coming electric car push in India,
  • Renault, since the company is already one of the leaders in the European electric car race and, as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, one of the world leaders in the field,
  • Audi Sport, showing VW’s intent of pursuing electric vehicle technology through a familiar venue—racing. and
  • Faraday Future, the star-crossed Chinese-funded American electric car startup.

There are more, but the auto companies are also joined by mainstream ones looking for customers drawn to racing or electric cars or the spectacle of international competition. Visa and Qatar Airways had invasive signage throughout the race area and Julius Bär Swiss Private Banking, Tag Heuer and DHL also present.

Tickets for the race did sell out, according to organizers, and the atmosphere appeared to be a cross between a traditional Formula 1 race and a Brooklyn geek street event, with drone races closing the day.

Formula E New York City

Formula E filled the stands on the Brooklyn docks

After Brooklyn

Formula E has pledged to return for a fourth season with 14 rounds in 11 cities (two yet to be announced). It will open in Hong Kong and once again conclude in Montreal, adding new venues of Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil and Rome. The series kicks off in December.

This video from Enel gives a good summary of the where companies see this race series going.  

And here’s a video of the Roborace cars.    

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Green Motorsports: Technology Driven Excitement

Green Motorsports: First EV Finisher for Dakar Rally

News: Toyota Sponsors a Race about Efficiency, Not Speed