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Renault Formula E racer (2013) at Frankfurt motor show

Wed, 11 Sep 2013

Formula E, the new elite racing series for electric single-seaters, has got the FIA’s backing, confirmed the major cities that will host the races, and now we've finally seen the crucial racecar. This is the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, a joint project developed between Renaultsport and Spark Racing Technology (SRT) which has just been unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show. There’s also been input from F1 legends Williams and McLaren, plus Dallara (which builds all the cars for the IndyCar series in the US).

Last time I saw an electric racing car, it lived on a Scalextric track…

The Spark-Renault SRT_01E is a bit more serious than your average bedroom floor toy. The 200kg battery, enclosed in a puncture-proof safety cell, powers a 200kW (268bhp) electric motor, which drives the rear wheels. Like in F1, the cars will be at their fastest in qualifying, when the full 268bhp is on tap. During races, 178bhp will be the standard output, with a momentary boost up to 268bhp unlocked via a steering wheel-mounted ‘push to pass’ button.

Each of the twenty drivers (split two to a team, as per F1) will use a mechanically identical Spark-Renault SRT_01E, which must weigh a minimum of 800kg with a driver on board. The identical racers will hit 62mph in 3.0sec, and are limited to a 125mph top speed because of the urban race environments. Conjecture that a similar limiter has been accidentally fitted to Max Chilton’s Marussia is now rife.

So there’s going to be lots of overtaking in Formula-E?

That’s the plan. Not only do drivers get a go-faster button to nail passes, but the cars’ aerodynamics have been designed to encourage close racing. And higher-than-usual ride height for single-seaters should mean the cars won’t be deflected too badly by the bumpy street circuits Formula E is destined for.

Where will Formula E races be held?

The inaugural season, which kicks off in September 2014, has a ten-race calendar. Confirmed city race venues include London, Berlin, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, and Rio de Janeiro, and the series is backed by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

You mentioned McLaren and Williams helped develop the Spark-Renault SRT_01E?

Indeed. Renault’s duty was designing and integrating the high-performance electric drivetrain, which is then built by McLaren Electronic Systems – yes, that’s an arm of the same McLaren Group which builds the 12C and P1 supercars, and Jenson’s F1 car. Meanwhile, Williams has been in charge (sorry) of designing the ultimate racing battery.

SRT designs the suspension and aerodynamics, and completes the final assembly, once the main carbonfibre monocoque has been manufactured by Dallara, the Italian outfit responsible for IndyCar, Formula 3 and GP2 chassis.

By Ollie Kew