ABB FIA Formula E Championship takes a turn in Switzerland

Electric racers along Lake Zurich

On 10 June 2018, spectators will be treated to state-of-the-art electric race cars navigating the curves along Zurich's lakeside and centre. The city's never seen anything quite like Formula E before. The racing circuit is a fascinating mix of technology, innovation and sustainability, and ABB as the primary title sponsor, is along for the ride.  

 

 
Fast straightaways, narrow curves: Racing track for the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Zurich

 

What links ABB and Formula E

Partners in sustainability

Electricity will power the future — a fact recognized by ABB's founders over 130 years ago when they started developing technology for what was then still a new energy form. Electromobility is the future of public and private transportation in the 21st century — ABB today is engaged in many different types of electromobility technology and innovation. The links between ABB and Formula E Holding, the promoter of the racing series, make sense in this context: both partners began as start-ups but today are driving forces behind sustainable mobility.

 

 
Driving sustainability: ABB and Formula E

 

How ABB FIA Formula E came to life

A captivating vision

It all started seven years ago with a sketch on a beer mat. Three men sat in a restaurant in Paris and hashed out the rough details of a new racing series that would fall under the banner of the world motorsports association. Present at that table: Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA); Antonio Tajani, today president of the European Parliament; and Alejandro Agag, a racing-mad Spanish businessman who is the guiding spirit for the ABB FIA Formula E and now CEO of its promoter Formula E Holdings. The trio's notes, ingloriously recorded on the bottom of that beer mat, would become the founding act for ABB FIA Formula E. Just seven years later, it has become the most important and fastest car racing series in the world, save only Formula 1.

The vision is captivating: bringing Formula E to those places where electrical energy is mostly likely to succeed as the fuel for the electromobility of the future. In short: to cities. “Formula 1 from your wall plug”, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper once called the idea of racing 100% electric cars in urban settings. The electric motorsport era kicked off on 13 September 2014, a Saturday, at 10 am Central European time. That was the moment the flag dropped in far-away Peking, China, on the first Formula E race in history. The tour moved on to Putrajaya, Malaysia, Punta del Este in Uruguay, Buenos Aires in Argentina and then Miami and Long Beach in the USA. It would take until May 2015 before the Formula E circus finally arrived on European soil, in Monaco. 



 

 
Race calendar 2017/2018 season

 

We are now in the fourth season of the ABB FIA Formula E racing series. 18 cities have now hosted the fossil-fuel free e-racers. Zurich's turn has arrived — the 43rd ABB FIA Formula E race on 10 June represents the 16th host country. The borders between traditional Formula 1 and electric Formula E can be downright liquid. Swiss Formula E racer Sébastien Buemi for example started in Formula 1 before moving over to the ABB FIA Formula E championship, sponsored globally since the beginning of this year by the Swiss technology concern ABB.

 

 
From Formula 1 to ABB FIA E Championship: Sébastien Buemi

 

The lure is clear: the race cars used on the ABB FIA Formula E circuit are cutting-edge vehicles designed for absolute world class performance, just like their combustion engine cousins in Formula 1. The differences are nevertheless significant: ABB FIA Formula E is based on sustainable energy. They produce significantly less noise and their top speeds are governed. Even so, Formula E race cars need just 0.9 seconds longer than their fossil fuel counterparts to accelerate from 0 to 100 kph — although Formula 1 vehicles can then go on to significantly higher top speeds. Sustainability is also a major focus for ABB FIA Formula E tyres: far fewer are used per race, with only one profile for all weather conditions. After use, all tyres are sent for recycling.

 

High-performance racing: Formula E vs. formula 1

 

Noise level comparison: Formula E vs. formula 1

 

During the first Formula E season (2014/15), all ten teams started with identical equipment. Today the racing teams have been given a free hand to design their own drive trains, cooling systems and rear axle suspensions. Fans can look forward to ABB FIA Formula E racing at new levels of power and efficiency.

The 2018/19 season marks the launch of the next generation of ABB FIA Formula E e-racers: the Gen2. The batteries have twice the energy capacity of their predecessors. This lets drivers target higher speeds on the racetrack without needing to change vehicles, as is currently the case. The Gen2 successfully premièred at a mid-May race in Berlin.

 
FIA Formula E Gen2 presentation at Geneva Motor Show 2018

 

 

More on the topic