Half way through an intense Season 7 championship battle, the action in the ABB FIA Formula E competition shifts from Europe – where races in Italy, Spain and Monaco have produced five different winners and a nail-biter points chase – to North America for the CBMM Niobium Puebla E-Prix.
The eighth and ninth rounds of the 2020/21 ABB Formula E Championship, a double-header on June 19-20, features a change of location from the past five years of racing in Mexico, moving from Mexico City to Puebla, about 100 kilometers south-east of the country’s capital. Racing at this site ensures that the event will comply with strict COVID-19 protocols, created under the guidance of the relevant authorities to enable a safe and responsible meeting.
Like the Mexico City race location, Puebla’s Autódromo Internacional Miguel E. Abed circuit is at high elevation – 2150 meters (7040 feet). This offers an opportunity for the battery-powered Formula E cars to demonstrate another performance advantage, beyond their zero-emissions operation. The electric motors suffer no loss of output in the thin air, maintaining their full 250-kilowatt (335 horsepower) peak. For other series that have raced on this course, including the FIA World Touring Car Championship and NASCAR Mexico, the less dense atmosphere robs combustion engines of some 20 per cent of their power.
Still, the elevation reduces the effectiveness of the cars’ aerodynamic provisions, cutting into the downforce provided by the wings and diffuser, and there’s also a downside impact on cooling. The racecourse at Puebla is a 15-turn layout over a lap of 3.0 kilometers (1.9 miles) that challenges drivers with a variety of corners and surfaces, ranging from a long start/finish straightaway through a trio of hairpins and a final 180-degree sweeper.
More than anything, the new location means that the drivers and team engineers arrive at this track with no prior experience and none of the vital set-up data to prepare for qualifying runs.
ABB ambassador Sébastien Buemi, a podium finisher driving for the Nissan e.dams team in last season’s Mexico race, notes that the location change at least ensures a level playing field among the teams: “No team has an advantage in laps run or data accumulated from previous years,” he said. “We’re all starting from the same baseline here, from a blank page, so the driver and engineers who work best together will be the ones to watch in qualifying.”
The ABB Formula E series arrives in Mexico with Robin Frijns of Envision Virgin Racing leading the championship points, based on his strong finishes in Saudi Arabia and Monaco. Close behind is Nyck de Vries of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team, winner of the Saudi season opener and round 5 in Valencia, Spain, and Mitch Evans of Jaguar Racing. In the teams’ championship, Mercedes-EQ holds a narrow lead over Jaguar Racing and DS Techeetah, promising an intense focus on good finishes in upcoming races.
Enthusiasm for motorsport runs high in Mexico, making Puebla a logical location for the ABB Formula E series to display the excitement and adaptability of pure-electric competition. Founded in the 1500s and with a population today of 3.2 million, Puebla is also the home of a major Volkswagen factory, producing a number of key models as well as three generations of the Beetle. The surrounding mountain peaks include an active volcano, Popocatépetl.
ABB has a noteworthy history of commitment to the country, from growing e-mobility to supporting the country’s vast manufacturing footprint. This includes helping to advance a U.S.-Mexico EV highway program, the Pan-American Charging Corridor, which aims to provide sufficient charging infrastructure for commercial EVs to drive from Mexico City to Texas. ABB has provided DC fast chargers for the central region’s portion of the corridor, each 110km apart. Taking advantage of ABB’s digital solutions, ABB Ability™ technology assures that the chargers are operational 24/7, as remote connectivity enables them to be continuously monitored from any location.
A further example of ABB operations in the country is the Volvo electric bus pilot project in Mexico City, which marks an important step towards achieving sustainable public transport solutions. The project, a collaboration of Metrobus, Volvo Buses Mexico, ABB Mexico and Downtown-Airport Connection, employs ABB’s Terra 54 HV technology to enable overnight charging in four hours, meaning it can operate throughout the day without interruption, resulting in zero-emission trips.
The Mexican government’s ambitious clean-energy goal calls for 35 per cent of Mexico’s energy needs to be met from renewable sources – half from wind power – by 2024. To help meet this objective, Iberdrola, the largest private electricity company in Mexico, is investing heavily in renewable facilities. ABB expertise and hardware support Iberdrola’s latest wind farm project, PIER 220, in Puebla state. It generates electricity corresponding to the supply of approximately 70,000 Mexican households and saves 120,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
ABB products are also playing a vital role in Mexico’s vast auto industry. At the Nissan-Daimler COMPAS manufacturing facilities in Aguascalientes, central Mexico, ABB’s state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, low-voltage power distribution solutions are used to power the factory’s entire electrical system. The ABB suite includes low-voltage switchgear, motor controllers, electrical panels and automated lighting systems.
ABB’s partnership with the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team has led to the installation of Terra HP 175kW chargers at Porsche main dealers in Mexico. The chargers are perfectly matched to the requirements of Porsche’s all-electric Taycan model. Further efforts to improve air quality in Mexico City, where restrictions on the use of private automobiles have been combined with investments in mass transit and enabling technologies supplied by ABB, have resulted in a network of ABB charging stations being installed for public use.
The ABB Formula E series next heads north to New York City for rounds 10 and 11 on July 10-11. The season then returns to Europe for double-headers in London and Berlin to crown the champion of the 15-race 2020/21 campaign.