ABB FIA Formula E Championship heats up in Chile

ABB FIA Formula E Championship takes to the streets in Santiago, Chile

Following two season-opening races in Hong Kong, and a third in Marrakesh, Morocco, the fourth round of the 2018 ABB FIA Formula E Championship gets underway February 3, 2018 in the Chilean capital, Santiago.


ABB has teamed up with Formula E to showcase high-performance electric transportation – e-mobility - as a mode of conveyance that can be as exciting as it is environmentally sustainable.


As the leading fully electric international motorsport, Formula E has been organizing environmentally responsible grand prix races around the world since 2014. To further the series’ development, ABB is bringing its name and its long tradition of innovation and technology leadership to the series, now known as the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.


The current season will see 10 teams and 20 drivers racing through 11 iconic cityscapes including Rome, Paris, Mexico City and Zurich before wrapping up in New York in July.


The 2018 Antofagasta Minerals Santiago E-Prix is contested on a 12-turn, 1.53-mile (2.46-kilometer) course laid out on public streets around the city’s Parque Forestal Ciudad De Santiago. With the towering peaks of the Andes as a backdrop, the racers will line up along Avenue Santa Maria before crossing the Mapocho River, continuing around the landmark Plaza Baquedano and through the park on the way back to the starting line.




What is Formula E? And how is it different from Formula 1?

For starters, Formula E racecars are fully electric, which means they have no fuel tank and produce no engine exhaust.


While a Formula E cars are not as fast as a Formula 1 cars, they are nevertheless serious racing machines, piloted by some of the world’s top drivers. International automakers now competing in the series include Jaguar, Audi and Renault.


The cars can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometers per hour in just under three seconds, on average, reaching maximum speeds of 225 kph (140miles per hour.) That’s not quite Formula 1 performance, but it’s not slow either. It is the speed limit set by Formula E officials, because racing on public streets means tighter tracks and spectators close to the action. The course layouts vary depending on the host city, but the length is typically upwards of 2 kilometers


For the drivers, a street circuit means dealing with bumps in the road, hazards like manhole covers and potential distractions from street markings.   


The roar of engines heard during a Formula 1 race is replaced by the sound of squealing tires and the whirr of the electric drivetrain. Even at top speed, a Formula E car reaches a noise level of only about 80 decibels, which is not much louder than the 70 decibels emitted by a traditional road car traveling at around 100 kph.


Standard design emphasizes driver skill

Most components of the cars are standardized across all teams, helping to ensure incredibly close competition. 


For designers of Formula 1 cars, mastering the aerodynamics of the racecar is one of the most important factors in determining speed. But in Formula E, all of the cars are aerodynamically identical.


So are the batteries powering the cars. The maximum amount of energy allowed is 200 kilowatt (kWs).
A Formula E car’s battery has approximately the same charge capacity – 28 kilowatt hours - as 300 laptop or 4,000 mobile phone batteries.  


The duration of the battery’s charge depends greatly on how hard the driver pushes the car during the race, but a charge usually lasts from 25 to 30 minutes. Because recharging is not allowed during the race, drivers switch midway through to a second fully-charged car standing ready in the pits.



Race days are packed with action

Formula E races are also different from other racing series in that the practice and qualifying sessions, plus the race itself, all take place in a single day. The race day program includes two practice sessions, during which the drivers become familiar with the bumps, turns and tight corners of the circuit. A qualifying session determines the important starting positions. And then the race is on.


During the race, the drivers switch to their second car, usually midway through the competition. As with any other racing pit stops, there is a strategy as to when this changeover takes place. The drivers and pit teams practice extensively to make the swap as smooth as possible. 


A novel aspect of the Formula E circuit is the FANBOOST feature, in which fans can vote via social me-dia for their favorite drivers to receive a speed boost during the race. The three favorite drivers each receive an extra 100 kilojoules of energy during the race, which might enable them to pass another car at a critical point in the race or help them avoid being overtaken by another car.


ABB brings to the series an unrivaled expertise in electric vehicle charging solutions, having the largest installed base of fast-charging stations worldwide. The ABB FIA Formula E Championship series will serve as a competitive platform to develop and test e-mobility-relevant technologies. By helping to refine the design and functionality of electric vehicles and infrastructure, as well as the associated digital platforms, ABB is pushing the boundaries of e-mobility, one electrifying race after another.


Stay tuned for more updates as the exciting ABB FIA Formula E Championship series continues. After Santiago, the circuit’s next stop is Mexico City on March 3.