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Electric car racing and the Aussies: will Formula E ever win first place in our hearts?

There’s no denying that Aussies love our car racing. We love it loud, fast and packed full of V8 power. But with an electric car racing revolution revving up overseas, and Supercars unveiling a hybrid-ready Gen3 model in time for the 2023 series, it’s time to ask ourselves whether a nation of self-confessed petrolheads are really ready to embrace battery powered vehicles alongside the grunt of a V8 experience?

What is electric car racing?

Electric car racing is a category of motorsport that uses electric powered vehicles run by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries instead of fuel power. Electric race cars can compete in their own official category, or in an open series against fuel-powered race cars. In Australia, we don’t yet have an official electric car racing category (more on that later) but interest in hybrid vehicles is growing, especially amongst Supercars fans who expect to see them racing by 2023.

Overseas, electric car racing is known mostly for the F1A Formula E Championship which boasts a substantial following and hosts sold out events across Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.

Who makes electric racing cars?

We’re all familiar with consumer electric vehicles such as Tesla—but in Europe, we’re seeing a major shift in thinking across all major car manufacturers who are investing heavily in new electric race car designs, with the intention of trickling those developments down to their consumer models.

Jaguar, Mercedes Benz and Porsche have all revealed increasingly tech-savvy designs in the last 12 months, with some pretty impressive results. The technology is improving so quickly that Formula E co-founder Alberto Lonzo predicts the cars in his series will overtake Formula 1 in the next ten years. He recently stated:

“Every four years we need to change, because technology is advancing so quickly. Every four years your technology is obsolete.”

Are there any electric car races in Australia?

While there are no official electric car racing categories in Australia yet, we are seeing electric vehicle enthusiasts infiltrating petrol powered motor races with some surprising results, even for the sceptics amongst us. In September 2021, Jurgen Lunsmann from Toveca Racing took out first place in the Targa165 category at the Targa West rally near Perth in his Tesla Model 3. As well as winning the category, his electric Tesla took 10th place overall, in a pool of 50 competitors. What makes his win even more incredible is that his car didn’t have access to fixed chargers—a significant disadvantage for Tesla’s that rely on them to remain competitive in a racing environment.

white tesla model 3 that won at targa west

Even with Toveca Racing’s win, electric car racing is still seen somewhat as a novelty in Australia. But the general consensus from up top is that it’s just a matter of time before it moves into the mainstream. Adelaide Motor Festival’s Tim Possingham, predicts that most racing cars in Australia will be electric in 10 years’ time.

“Right now EVs are a novelty, but that’s going to flip.”

As we await Supercars’ unveiling of their hybrid Gen3, who knows what technical developments will take place and whether the underwhelming hum of a whisper-quiet engine can be offset by never-seen-before speed and car agility.

hybrid Gen3 cars

Will Formula E come to Australia?

Will Formula E come to Australia in the next few years? Possibly. The South Australian Government has been taking meetings with Formula E, discussing the possibility of bringing the category to the streets of Adelaide. However, they’re being cryptic with their messaging, leaving the door open for other categories of electric racing outside of Formula E to make their way to Adelaide. Back in October 2021, the head of the events arm of South Australia’s tourism industry, Hitaf Rasheed, told reporters:

“We’re still looking at the opportunity (of Formula E) – at various opportunities – and this is just one of them.”

Formula E specs 2022

Formula E isn’t simply the electric version of Formula 1. The Formula E mission is to drive technological development through the excitement of competitive sport, and this is evident through the ever evolving specs of the cars. Formula E has announced that it will be unveiling its third-generation (Gen 3) electric car in the 2022-2023 season, promising to be lighter and smaller than the previous generation. Unlike their predecessors, Gen3 electric race cars won’t use rear hydraulic braking, rather they will use regenerative braking.

porsche formula e gen3 race car

What powertrain do Formula E race cars have?

The next generation of Formula E electric race cars will have a total of 600kW powertrain. This will be split between 350kW at the rear of the car, and 250kW at the front. This is double the regenerative capability of the Gen2.

Formula E top speed

The next generation of Formula E electric cars will reach a top speed of 200mph (321.87 kmh), with a power-to-rate ratio that’s twice as efficient as a combustion engine of the same size.

Do Formula E cars have gears?

Yes, Formula E cars have gears and this is regulated by the FIA. Every car needs to include a single mechanism transmission, which requires at least one gear set.

Are Formula 1 cars faster than Formula E?

While Formula E and electric car racing technology in general is improving at breakneck speeds, they’re still chasing the insane top speeds of Formula 1. In 10 years time, who knows where electric cars will be in this race. We can assume that with the strides electric race car designers are improving their technology that we’ll look back on today’s Formula 1 speeds the same way we do top racing speeds from the 1920s. Cute and laughable.

f1 vs formula e race cars

What is the future of electric car racing in Australia?

Electric car racing in Australia is inevitable in some form. We’re already seeing its influence through teams like Toveca Racing but also with the move to hybrid technology in future V8 Supercars seasons. How this will play out is anybody’s guess, which is what makes our sport so interesting. However, in the meantime, there’s no way that the current generation of V8 fuel-powered cars are going anywhere.

There’s too many of us that live for a powerful engine and the smell, sounds and sights of a beautiful V8 race car. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for electric car racing categories running alongside our favourite Supercars rounds. Especially if we continue to see the exciting speeds and technological advancements coming out of the electric car space.

The biggest hurdle right now is to get portable high-speed chargers to allow electric cars to compete in a full race meeting. There’s no doubt, with track modifications, current leading EV manufacturers like Tesla have cars with the torque and acceleration to compete, but keeping them powered up is the challenge. Once this technical nut is cracked, be ready to see more electric cars getting into the contest.

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