McLaren has announced that it will supply and build the motors, transmissions and electronics for the 2014 Formula E season. FIA World Championship Formula E features solely electric powered cars, with races taking place in metropolitan centers around the globe. The support of the major motorsport name is likely to significantly boost the new championship's image.
McLaren will partner with Spark Racing Technology (SRT) to design and assemble the electric vehicles (EVs). Together they will produce the 42 cars on order from Formula E Holdings (FEH). In terms of performance, the EVs are comparable to their combustion engine cousins, with expected top speeds in excess of 200 km/h (124 mph). The 2014 season will feature ten teams, each with two drivers, increasing to 12 teams by 2016.
Unlike the popular Formula 1 championship, Formula E events will take place in metropolitan centers around the world, made possible by the zero emissions and super-quiet nature of the EVs. So far, Rio de Janiero has signed up for a spot on the schedule, while cities in the US, Mexico, Monaco and India have expressed interest in the championship. Due to the limited rage of the EVs, drivers will have to change cars twice during the hour-long races, putting an interesting spin on the tried and tested pit stop mechanic.
While you might be familiar with the McLaren brand from its premier Formula 1 team, or from its flashy super cars, the company is also no stranger to eco-friendly work. In December 2011 it became the world's first carbon-neutral Formula 1 team, a significant milestone for the sport.
The fledgling Formula E championship will aim to play a significant role in the development of electric car technology. Martin Whitmarsh, CEO McLaren Group and Team Principle of Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes stated that by working with SRT, they hope to keep both companies “at the forefront of technical innovation and hopefully open up great opportunities for the racing cars of tomorrow”. One of the key goals of the championship is to create a framework for the research and development of EVs, with the competitive nature of the sport creating an impetus for breakthroughs in efficiency and battery life.
While Formula E is likely to provide a boost to both the technology and the image of electric cars, the industry is already experiencing significant growth. A number of manufacturers have released electric cars with home charging or on-board solutions, while Tesla has begun rolling out a gas station-like charger network across the United States, with plans for an expansion into Europe in the near future.