Like nearly a dozen other car brands, Jaguar is so confident Formula E is the motorsport of the 21st century that it revived its non-existent factory racing program
The Formula E spectacle
Final stop in Montreal
Attracting some fans, but many automakers
Why automakers are excited
Formula E got Jaguar back into racing
Making luxury greener
The Jaguar I-Type race car
The Panasonic Jaguar Racing powertrain setup
Focusing on temperature management
Busy in the cockpit
Balance between acceleration and regeneration
A different sound
The I-Type race car attracts attention, but it's all about the I-PACE
Worlds apart in appearance
Technology always improving
Formula E is an all-electric racing series put together under the governing body of the FIA—the same association that heads Formula One. It just concluded its third season with its first Canadian running of a race, in Montreal.
Sections of the eastern end of downtown Montreal were closed off for the 2.75-km temporary city-centre street circuit. Billed as the Hydro-Quebec Montreal ePrix, the final double-header of the season determined the driver and constructor championship.
Lucas di Grassi of the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team would come from behind and take the driver’s championship; while the Renault e.Dams team secured a third consecutive constructor’s championship.
There was concern that the race wouldn’t bring in the fans, but grandstands were full on race weekend. More impressive, however, is the amount of interest its received from other automaker brands.
The Panasonic Jaguar Racing team joined in for this season, and the next couple of years will see the influx of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Audi as factory teams. Most of the brands listed have had to drop other successful racing programs in order to financially back their decision to join Formula E.
Exposure of a brand through a global racing spectacle on world-class city streets is huge, but the main reason to join Formula E is for the transfer of technology from race to road car. With many automakers shifting to some form of electrification in their vehicle roster, it makes perfect sense to use Formula E as a real-world testbed.
“As a company, we wanted to come back not just for any reason, but for the right one,” explained James Barclay, team director, Panasonic Jaguar Racing. “When we looked at Formula E, it stood out as the future of the automobile industry as it shifts toward electrification.”
Jaguar Racing Green was the branding for its previous Formula One car, but now, Jaguar wants the public to identify its brand with the environmental ‘green’ badge. Joining Formula E allows Jaguar to promote its upcoming electrification push.
Jaguar’s Formula E race car is called the I-Type. It uses a 200-kW motor and can hit a top speed of 225 km/h. Through instant torque, the I-Type accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds.
Each car in the series has the same chassis, aerodynamics, and 28-kWh lithium-ion battery. Teams can adjust powertrain, though, including the type of motor – longitudinal, transverse, or pancake – as well as its amount of gears.
According to Barclay, the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team is in its learning year as it gets adjusted to Formula E. The team went with an older setup for the 2016-2017 season when constructing its own powertrain. The I-Type has a longitudinal motor and a two-speed gearbox, contained in a single aluminum casing.
As you stroll across the paddock, one major thing that stands out is the use of ice inside the race car. Each team has its own system of dropping in buckets of ice, sometimes through a funnel or blower, to lower the battery cell’s temperature to 21 Celsius. The maximum temperature the car can reach during the race is 62 Celsius.
Not only do the Formula E drivers have to race against their competition, there’s a lot of extra focus to be paid to temperature management and brake regeneration. Regeneration recovers energy that can add more laps to each battery used (they use two cars per race, with a change near the middle).
“We are very busy behind the wheel, much more than any other car I’ve driven,” adds Andy Carroll, Panasonic Jaguar Racing team driver. “Energy savings are extreme, and from that strategy sets in.”
Fuel-saving strategies are to key to several types of racing, whether its IndyCar, Formula One, or any other gas-powered racing series. In Formula E, drivers have to maintain performance, but at the same time regenerate battery for optimal range. The more efficient the driver is, the more performance the race car will have.
From a fan perspective, the biggest difference from Formula E to any other racing sport is its sound. With all-electric cars, fans only hear a little buzz from the race cars as they battle it out on track. It’s something that takes time to get used to, but it allows fans to have a conversation while listening to music played by the DJ.
The Jaguar I-Type got all of the attention during the race weekend, but many of these racing efforts are to promote Jaguar’s electrification program, which starts with the four-door five-seater I-PACE crossover.
The mid-size sporty crossover is set to be released mid-2018. The concept shown off has 400 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, with a range of 386 km on a single charge thanks to a 90-kWh lithium-ion battery.
Perhaps it’s too early in the game, as the I-PACE concept came out before the I-Type, but there are no cosmetic links between the two products. In addition, the Jaguar Racing team had no comment about future production designs being shown off in the race car or vice-versa; so far, it’s all about real-world data and technology transfer.
Electrification is constantly in flux, with billions of dollars spent on research and development. As technology improves, so will Formula E. The latest example of this is found in a new 54-kWh lithium-ion battery to be used by all teams starting in the 2018-2019 season. The larger battery will eliminate the two-car swap during the race, as teams will be able to last on one battery—a clear indication Formula E may be here to stay!