Las Vegas got a reminder on Monday that technology is more than smartphones and tablets, as the Strip echoed to the whine of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E single-seater, all-electric race car making its public driving debut. Timed to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the first-of-its-kind Formula E electric racer was put through its paces by Brazilian Formula 1 driver Lucas di Grassi before heading on to Mandalay Bay in the city center.
We've already had a couple of glimpses at the SRT_01E, with its presentation at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September and its first spin around the track at La Ferté Gaucher near Paris in November. It’s the first Formula E racer to be homologated by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) with more to follow as the new championship for cars powered exclusively by electricity starts this September.
Built in collaboration between Renault and Spark Racing Technology with an electric powertrain by McLaren, the SRT_01E shows the same dedicated Formula 1 aerodynamic lines that are enough to scare the wits out of most people at the thought of pressing the start button. To keep down the weight to a mere 800 kg (1,763 lb), which includes the weight of the driver and 200 kg (440 lb) of batteries, there’s extensive use of carbon composites in the chassis/survival cell, bodywork, and front and rear wings.
Powering the SRT_01E is the electric motor, called a “motor generator unit” by McLaren, linked to the rear axle. It puts out a limited 270 bhp (200 kW), which isn't much compared to a Formula 1 engine. When racing, it's limited to 180 bhp (133 kW) with maximum power only allowed in “Push-to-Pass” situations and during practice and qualifying sessions.
Behind the motor is a Hewland flappy paddle sequential gearbox with fixed gear ratios. Though final performance figures haven’t been determined, the SRT_01E is estimated to do 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in about three seconds and has an estimated maximum speed of 140 mph (225 km/h)
The SRT_01E’s suspension consists of double-steel wishbones with pushrod-operated twin dampers and torsion bars in the front and spring suspension in the rear. Steering is by a non-assisted rack and pinion system, though the rules do allow for power assistance. The brakes are two hydraulic systems operated by a single pedal, and the calipers are of aluminum alloy. The championship-specified wheels carry bespoke 18-in treaded Michelin tires.
“Everybody at Renault is very proud that we were able to show the 100 percent electric Spark-Renault race car in driving conditions for a very tech-savvy crowd in Las Vegas,” says Renault Sport Technologies CEO Patrice Ratti. “We are very happy about the result so far and our engineers will keep working with Spark, Dallara, McLaren, Williams and Michelin to further improve the Spark-Renault SRT_01E so that all teams can compete with an amazing 100 percent electric race car when the championship begins.”