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Formula E takes off at Porsche

The test phase is open: Porsche has now sent its Formula E racer onto the race track for the first time. The first impression: Looks pretty elegant in his black paint. But otherwise it's like the competition. Of course. Because in Formula E a standard chassis is the order of the day. But: If it says Porsche on it, there's Porsche in it.

Text: Bernd Haase Photo: Porsche 07.03.2019 3 min

The current Formula E racing car is named »FE18 Spark Racing Technology« or »Gen2« for short. It has been in use since this season. Optically, the Elektroracer with its clad front wheels and the two separate wing elements on the right and left above the rear wheels looks very compact like an optimally trained martial artist. Compared to the heterogeneous Formula1 racing cars, the e-athletes have already scored points in the »design« discipline. They have also caught up in terms of performance. It's the new battery. It comes from McLaren Advanced Technologies (MAT) and can store up to 54 kilowatt hours of energy - as much as 8,000 smartphone batteries. Enough energy to send the unpopular vehicle change of the first four seasons into well-deserved retirement.

So far, so uniform. It gets even more exciting under the hood. All drive components are developed in-house. In this way, Porsche can go its own way in developing key technologies. These include the electric motor, converter, brake-by-wire system that activates the braking force electronically and not hydraulically, transmission, differential, drive shafts, the load-bearing structure and the associated chassis parts on the rear axle, as well as the cooling system and control unit.

The latter in particular is required in racing operations. While the riders fight bumper to bumber for positions in the races, they have to simultaneously manage the available amount of energy and recover energy again and again in between. This is because the maximum permitted power in racing operation is defined at the output of the battery.The challenge is the maximum efficient use of the available amount of energy via hardware, software and manual management by the driver. In order to recover energy, the rear axle brakes with the electric machine in addition to the disc brake.

The load capacity of the drive parts is also of particular importance. Since the current season 5, all drive components have been limited to two parts sets per vehicle for the entire season. In the event of damage, for exampledue to an accident, a component can be drawn and exchanged once as a wildcard. Anyone who needs further replacement must accept penalties in the event of an emergency.

At Porsche Motorsport, they want to avoid that, of course. And are aware of the task. »Compared to series development, the requirements in terms of efficiency and weight of the engine in Formula E are on a completely different level,« emphasizes Technical Project Manager Malte Huneke on the occasion of the rollout. »Now we'll gradually approach the limit. This is essential to endure in the formula E.« Factory driver Neel Jani, who drove the car during the rollout over the Porsche test track in Weissach, is definitely impressed: »Of course we haven't reached the limit yet today,« he said after the maiden voyage, »but the powertrain and the vehicle make a very good first impression overall. I can't wait to continue the test work.«

All right, then: Hit the volts! - or whatever you like to say in times of electrified motorsports.