The BMW Group has been involved with the Formula E series since its very first season. In 2019, the Munich-based BMW Group will be entering a works team in the electric racing series, and in the process sending out a clear signal: the future is electric. But that’s not the only message.
An interview with BMW’s Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt, who is also in charge of the Formula E project.
Last summer the first electric racing cars streaked through the urban canyons of New York. It seems that electric vehicles are now unstoppable.
It was indeed quite a spectacle, even though the race wasn’t in Manhattan itself but in the industrial port area of Brooklyn. Hong Kong has a similarly impressive backdrop. The track runs through the port and past the city’s famous skyscrapers. This would be unthinkable for a Formula 1 race.
Too much noise?
Definitely. A racing car with an 8-cylinder engine has up to 20,000 revolutions. The noise it creates is brutal! But even in Formula 1 this now in the past.
But Formula E doesn’t attract big crowds.
I see it differently. Formula E has only been going for three years. We had 3,500 spectators at the first race, and now on average we are attracting 20,000. It’s heading in the right direction. The stands in New York and Hong Kong are much smaller and can’t hold any more spectators. Perhaps the next thing will be night races. That’s one idea. But one thing is sure – the atmosphere is fantastic. People are realising that electric cars can be just as exciting as conventional cars with combustion engines.
In what way?
Both types of racing – Formula 1 and Formula E – deliver top-quality motorsport. In both, the drivers have to make split-second decisions under great pressure. And in Formula E they also have to think tactically about how to make best use of their energy. I can assure you that emotions run high.
But that isn’t the only reason why the BMW Group is involved?
We are in a very exciting phase with both motorsport and production vehicles. There is an ever-increasing emphasis on sustainability. This was already an important focus at the finale of the 2009 Formula 1 season. Our commitment to electric racing doesn’t mean we are turning away from motorsport, but rather making a shift towards greater sustainability – including on the racetrack.
So you’re using Formula E to develop production vehicle technology?
Developing technology that can be adapted for production vehicles is the driving force behind BMW i motorsport. It’s interesting that the boundaries between production and motor racing development are more blurred than ever before. The same engineers who develop the powertrains for the BMW i series are working on our Formula E powertrain for season 5 and beyond. Technology transfer is all-pervasive.
So apart from the engine, how is an electric racing car different from a conventional electric vehicle?
As is always the case in motorsport, the Formula E racing cars are designed to be driven at the limit of what is permitted. The engineers have an additional adjustment screw for tuning the vehicle. And of course the driver is also very important in Formula E. Over the next few years we will certainly see some exciting developments in Formula E racing car design. The spectators will love it.
How sustainable are the vehicles?
Formula E provides the perfect platform for promoting the development of forward-looking technologies in the areas of renewable energy, sustainable energy supply and e-mobility. During the race, Formula E cars produce no carbon emissions, and the charging process is also emission-free. The charging stations for the vehicle batteries are operated using a combination of solar cells and Aquafuel glycerine. It is not yet possible for the whole of Formula E to be totally emission-free, but the race series is definitely on the right track.