Car Nuts

Why BMW is going electric-car racing

Formula E has become the racing focus of several mainstream automakers

BMW-Andretti Formula E

BMW has confirmed that it will join the FIA Formula E Championship as an official manufacturer in Season 5 (2018/19). The cars will be equipped with a newly-developed BMW electric drivetrain and will be run by the Andretti Formula E team as BMW’s works entry in the series.

For those of us weaned on the wail of Ferrari and Matra V-12s in Formula 1, the scream of four-cam Fords in Indy cars and the thunder of big-block Chevys in Can-Am, the whine of electric motors just doesn’t seem natural in race cars.

But as is the case with road-going cars, electric seems to be the way of racing’s future.

Now in its third season, Formula E was considered almost a joke by many fans and racing insiders when it began in 2014. Even now, drivers must change to a second car just to be able to finish a race.

But Formula E has vaulted into prominence with huge support from global automakers, who are shifting budgets from more traditional forms of racing to join the EV bandwagon.

The driving force behind BMW’s increased involvement – it’s already supporting the MS Amlin Andretti entry in the current series – is the development of innovative technology in the field of electromobility, the company says.

The Formula E project is said to be the perfect development laboratory for production-related electric powertrain technology, providing valuable impetus in the development of BMW iNEXT and the next generation of BMW i models with electric drive.

“Through our involvement in Formula E, we are addressing the development towards sustainable and emission-free mobility in the automobile industry and are also making a contribution to the brand’s progression to BMW iNEXT,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development.

“This project is thoroughly driven by technology, he added. “We are using Formula E as a development laboratory, operating under the unique conditions that prevail in motor racing – with unique demands and opportunities. The borders between production and motor racing development are more blurred at BMW i Motorsport than in any other project. The result is a technology transfer on a whole new level.”

Season 5, when BMW will join the fray, will see the introduction of an all-new car, built by Spark Racing Technology. Its shape was inspired and defined by the FIA (the governing body of motorsport) with the aim of having a futuristic and appealing design. It will be produced by Spark Racing Technology, who won the chassis tender.

There will also be a new standard battery, produced by McLaren Applied Technologies, which will enable twice the current range, so races will no require two cars per driver and a mid-race car change.

Nine manufacturers, including OEMs DS (PSA), Jaguar Land Rover, as well as BMW, have been homologated as official manufacturers and Audi will field a fully-backed works team under its banner.

The final Formula E races of the 2016-17 season (Season 3) are scheduled to take place in New York City on July 14/16 and in Montreal on July 29.

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