Three Ways Formula E Will Benefit Our Electric Vehicles

Regardless whether you personally like motorsports, or not, alternative energy fans may want to seriously consider cheering on Formula E or at least hope it succeeds.

For more than a century internal combustion vehicles have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship between racing and cars we can buy, and a key goal for Formula E is facilitating a similar state of affairs for battery powered vehicles.

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But to build momentum, the races held at international cities will need to remain interesting to enough people over the long haul. The inaugural race at Beijing last Saturday was a well-orchestrated show and media coverage was inadvertently stimulated by a last-lap crash that took out the top-two drivers with fortunately no serious injuries – or fire, by the way.

In any case, as many as 40 million people watched it, and 75,000 were in attendance at the Beijing Olympic Park’s “Bird’s Nest” Stadium.

The promoters say they hope to ”appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans” but probably also needed will be traditional fans who on another day get excited about Indy racing, NASCAR, F1, or one of many other forms of competition.

And however it plays out, assuming “ePrix” events develop a sufficient following, and the series is managed well, the underlying reason for Formula E can best be met.

“Organizers hope the new series will also help increase the interest in electric vehicles and promote sustainability, as well as accelerate the technology available which, over time, will filter into the road-going electric vehicle market,” says Formula E.

And with that, we’ve compiled with input from a Formula E, three ways everyone will win, assuming Formula E wins going forward.

1) Prestige For EVs

Formula E has already attracted some well-regarded public figures to imbue glamour onto this colorful spectacle.

Just some include Formula 1 celebrities Alain Prost, Mario and Michael Andretti, and environmentalist entrepreneur Richard Branson is a fan and backing the Virgin Racing team.

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Big-name corporate sponsors include Renault, BMW, Michelin, McLaren is contributing powertrain components it first developed for its P1, Qualcomm is contributing technology and funding, as are others.

Beyond that, new stars stand to be made and all of this could add to perceived prestige for a sport all about EVs.

And that, says Formula E, is one foundational idea behind the series.

“Most EVs today are perceived as slow and odd looking (except for a few high-end/high-priced models),” it says in a statement. “Formula E can help change opinions. Formula E cars are sleek, quick and attractive.”

The aim is to help EVs come across to more people as authentically cool – and driving electric cars not just a matter of doing what’s good for us like eating bland vegetables because mom is making you when you’d rather have dessert.

Formula E’s potential is to make EVs look desirable not only for those “on the fence” about purchasing an EV, says Formula E, but also for “the next generation of car owners.”

2) Public Education/Awareness

Related to number one, but with a different focus is the potential for Formula E to lead to greater mainstream understanding of alternative energy technologies, and why they are a good idea.

If consumers want to make informed decisions, and U.S. automakers hope to sell much outside of California, increasing global awareness will help the marketplace before anyone starts myopically focusing overly much on news of less-than-stellar EV acceptance.

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Fact is, studies continue to show a significant percentage of consumers remain uninformed about EVs, plug-in hybrids, and even regular hybrids. One survey by Synovate in 2011 polled 1,900 people actively shopping, and comprehension was lacking.

Responses included 33 percent said EVs do have tailpipe emissions (they don’t), 72 percent said regular hybrids are zero emissions vehicles (they aren’t), 77 percent said plug-in cars run on hydrogen (fat chance). Further, 85 percent said battery electric cars run on gas as well as electric (not unless it’s a Chevy Volt), half did not know it takes more than 15 minutes to recharge EVs (this was before much rollout of quick charging), and so on.

More people are likely up to speed on EVs 101 now, but we still hear misinformed statements regularly, like just the other day when a person asked why Tesla needs Superchargers because he thought the Model S recharges its batteries as it drives.

No surprise there, as late last year, Navigant Research published a white paper documenting a serious awareness gap yet exists between those for whom the light bulb has lit, and the others with an unclear view.

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Beyond that, stories are common of car salespeople who aren’t compensated to adequately explain and hold people’s hands through a more detailed plug-in car sale. And let’s not forget automakers who at this juncture seem less than gung ho to push plug-in tech beyond compliance cars.

That doesn’t help things when there’s already a raft of obfuscation and willful or inadvertent misinformation floating out there from various media.

Can Formula E solve all this? Not likely all by itself, but it will be one more avenue. The intent is to make EVs more fun, interesting, and as this continues, people will naturally learn more about these whirring cars, and the hope is, synergy will build.

3) Trickle Down Tech

Racing subjects cars to the most brutal torture tests and failure is avoided at all costs. Especially true when teams begin developing their own cars, in order to win, they’ll find out what works. Lessons learned can then be passed along from this real-world lab to production electric cars.

It’s been said “racing improves the breed,” and while internal combustion cars have long-since benefitted, there are so many potential ways EV tech stands to gain.

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Of course, automakers and others say they are independently working on innovations, but development of motors, controllers, batteries, software, chassis, suspensions, brakes, transmissions, and more will have another motivated EV gene pool.

As the series develops, so will the cars, and ultimately “environmental sustainability” is the point, says Formula E.

“Electric vehicles are the future—they’re efficient and better for the environment,” says Formula E.

So, in direct contradistinction to internal combustion racing which generates human adrenaline by burning fossil and financial resources, Formula E’s aim is a calculated dedication of resources aimed at cultivating rewards that are indefinitely sustainable.

It’s all being done under the condition that everyone enjoy themselves, and it’s anything but austerity measures while Formula E’s promoters hope the greater good will still be served.