Navigant Research Blog

EV Racing Comes of Age

— September 25, 2013

Motor racing has always been at the forefront of automotive technology.  In 1901, Henry Ford won a race that enabled the beginning of the Ford Motor Company.  Disc brakes were first invented in the late 1890s, but practical problems and lack of suitable pad materials kept them off volume cars until Dunlop introduced them on the Jaguar C-Type racing car in 1953.  Winning at Le Mans convinced manufacturers that this technology was ready for production, and the first disc brakes were subsequently installed on cars from Citroën and Triumph.

In recent years, as described in an earlier Navigant Research blog, motor racing has been a test bed for advanced engine technology as well as energy recovery systems.  While Formula One racing gets a lot of headlines in Europe and Asia, and NASCAR is very restrictive on which technologies can be used, the endurance racing series is more valuable to most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to test out new systems.  The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the best-known single race.  Both Toyota and Audi have had success in recent years with high-powered hybrid racing cars.

Not So Noxious

2014 will see the launch of a 10-race Formula E series featuring electric racing cars.  From September 2014 to June 2015 races will take place in cities around the world including London, Rome, Los Angeles, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Bangkok.  One of the advantages of pure electric racing is that cities are more willing to host races because there is less noise and fumes than a traditional Formula One race.  New teams already signed up include Drayson Racing in the United Kingdom and United States-based Andretti Autosport.

As a demanding test of electric vehicle technology, e-racing provides an incentive for battery and motor manufacturers to showcase their latest products.  Qualcomm has signed on as a partner and will supply both telematics and wireless charging to the race teams.   The advantages of a more efficient motor or a more energy-dense battery that can stand up to a racing environment will surely be in demand in production vehicles.  And more publicity focused on EV performance won’t hurt the marketing efforts, either.


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