FIA Formula E is progressing well with its first season of competition, the racing has been surprisingly good, and I have to say I was impressed when after the opening race, I had friends come to me, that certainly aren’t Motorsport fans, who had enjoyed Formula E at the weekend, and after some the latter rounds too. That surprised me a little, though it seems to be the impression alot of people gained, in that Formula E targeted a group of people that weren’t really focused on motorsport, in the way we are.
If having the non-motorsport fan is the target market, then I guess that is fine, but the series has to decide if it is the case. Following that decision, it has to continue to feed that target group with continuous development and interest, and I’m not entirely sure it’s future plan is doing so.
So to explain, Formula E announced that from next season, Powertrain, Gearbox and Inveter development would be open to eight chosen manufacturers as listed below.
Virgin Racing Engineering
It’s an interesting list of automotive manufacturers, teams, presumably working with automotive partners, in addition to specialist EV powertrain developers. However is it enough to really change the image of FIA Formula E with the aero package staying the same, citing cost as a reason for no development. It’s enough for us motorsport fans, but is it enough development for that target fan group, as the cars will remain visually the same, is enough interest present for them to care who developed which E-motor? Additionally the battery technology, and manufacturing will remain standard for a further season before development in that area is handed over to the manufacturers above.
The other part within the release, which is somewhat interesting, and probably the most concerning, when thought of from the angle of the target group, is Formula E explained that the objective would be, by the fifth season, FIA Formula E would allow the use of a single car per driver during races.
Now If we are really appealing to people who aren’t directly interested perhaps in motorsport, and are enjoying FIA Formula E for the novelty, and because it is fresh and new, is the patience really available for them to wait five years until a car can complete a race distance? If you take into account on the automotive side, you can see a Tesla; drive an extensive distance on electric power only?
Ok I know the technology is different between the two, as is the power available to the battery pack, though is all that really important for the market Formula E seems to be appealing too? Taking it at face value, what you are seeing is a series that has been running for five seasons, where the hype has all but left the building, and the perception left is that a single car still can’t complete a race distance. On the other side you are seeing automotive companies developing electric cars that have much greater range, and overall more interest to the consumer? It may not be entirely true when you delve into the differences in battery technology etc, but the perception I explained would surely be in existence? Has FIA Formula E therefore come along five years too early, should it of been unrestricted from the start, though admittedly cost would of probably meant it couldn’t be, in terms of development, or is this just part of the process, that we have to go through to get to that point in technology that the FIA wants from this series?
I’m interested how it is going to evolve, its more interesting for me that innovation is beginning to occur, and full credit for the progress FIA Formula E has made so far and the interest it has generated. I’m just concerned that it needs to still define its audience, and if it is defining that audience, the way I believe the series is, can it captivate its audience for long enough, to see it through this development cycle? Let me know your thoughts.