EV racing series, Missed opportunities?

When the FIA Formula E series was first announced, I had this thought in my head of the series been a modern interpretation of Formula Libre. I had this idea that the series would evolve technological and innovative solutions to the absolute limit in the search of a futuristic vision for motorsport as a whole, not just in what is powering the car but also in the way the cars visually are presented.

I imagined having a series with very few technical rules besides safety requirements creating a real showcase of technology, with both road and track relevance integrated into the direction of the series.

Yeah…. So what actually happened isn’t really what I imagined might happen.

Formula E starts in November 2014 with a plethora of companies involved in the creation of its specification Spark Renault SRT_01E. These include Dallara , Williams F1, Renault , Mclaren and Michelin.
It’s certainly attracted major names in the industry and does have strong potential for the future but is it really all that exciting?

I would like to see how it develops but at the moment I am sceptical on whether the way Formula E is set to function is the answer for EV racing. I like the concept of electric car racing although inner city circuits and gimmicks haven’t helped sway my opinion towards the Formula E series so far. Perhaps when it is on track next year, I might have a different opinion. I just don’t believe it looks exciting enough visually for people without a keen interest already in the sport to pay enough attention. Overall I think the cars look far too conventional.

It has had some strong press coverage at times and Drayson Racing have already announced plans to become a constructor for the series in 2015 once the regulations are opened to allow alternative chassis so perhaps then, what I imagined in 2012 might actually come a little closer to reality.

The reality today has provoked some other thoughts though. Motorsport as a whole has a huge opportunity to change perceptions of the sport for future generations whilst electric vehicle racing in mainstream motorsport is effectively in its infancy. Though at current it seems the intention is to stay with visual design convention, rather than radical changes.

In the world of motorsport some exceptions to convention do exist in EV designs. Nissan NISMO’s division for example are building a zero emissions radical looking entry designed by Ben Bowlby who previously designed the Deltawing. The new car is called Nissan ZEOD RC and experienced its first on track demo last weekend.

The aim of the car is that it is raced at the Le Mans 24 hours in the 2014 out of classification “garage 56” experimental garage. The aim of the project is for Nissan to develop EV technologies and eventually lead to an electric LMP1 entry derived from what is learnt from the ZEOD programme.

Remembering back to how much coverage the Deltawing delivered into the sport through its exciting visual design and innovative engineering using petrol power leading up to the 2012 24 hours of le mans. It makes me wonder whether for motorsport to attract new fans now it really has to look towards those more radical designs.

Can you remember the last time an open wheel series had cars that looked radically different from the one that its rival series ran? I mean in terms of a completely different ethos in design. Not the characteristics that open wheel-racing cars have had for decades now and its not just open wheel. Numerous forms of motorsport have kept the same design characteristics for decades.

I don’t want every car to be crazier looking than the last. I understand that regulations will mean cars will look similar to one an other and that aerodynamics and technology will play a major part in designing and shaping the way a car looks and races too. However I do think that EV racing is the best chance motorsport has to show more exciting visual designs more often.

What do you think? Do you think EV racecars should be conventional in an almost continuation of current visual design? Do you think a more radical looking approach will bring new younger fans to the sport as a whole or do you have a different view?

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