The arrival of shorter days and cooler weather in the Northern Hemisphere is normally a reliable sign of the waning motorsports season – but not for ABB Formula E. Warm-up exercises for Season 8 of the fully electric series begin Monday, November 29, at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain.
The pre-season testing week, which includes three days on the track and one day dedicated to media activity, comes as most motorsport series wind down at year’s end. But echoing the unrelenting growth of electric vehicle adoption, ABB Formula E barely pauses; the brief off-season was in fact filled with a blur of changes in team drivers and car liveries along with major revisions to technical regulations and competition rules.
Season 8 begins with a double race on the historic streets of Diryah, Saudi Arabia, on January 28-29 and wraps up in a new location, Seoul, South Korea, on August 13-14. But first, teams will conduct crucial shakedowns of their cars in Valencia and test newly developed components for both performance and reliability. For some teams, acclimating new drivers to the unique conditions of fully electric racing will also be a part of the week’s tasks.
The sessions are a valuable opportunity for teams to acquire data and evaluate changes, input that is all the more useful because Valencia has hosted the ABB Formula E testing in previous years. In 2021, the series held two rounds of the championship on this circuit.
New rules and more power
The on-track time will include a trial of a new qualifying format to be used in Season 8, a progression of knockout rounds that will narrow the field to an eventual pole position winner. Such simulations of actual race day action fit well with the tech-forward ABB Formula E series. Racecar simulators at each team’s home base are a vital part of the development process and strategy planning, in much the same way as ABB employs Digital Twin technology to provide 3-D visualization in industrial applications to ensure that designs are sound and equipment interactions are seamless.
Rule revisions to the length of races in the event of a Full Course Yellow period or a safety car deployment will provide for up to an additional 10 minutes of race time beyond the standard 45 minutes-plus-one-lap configuration. Other changes for the new season that competitors will be seeking to validate are higher power levels, raised to 220 kW during races (up from 200 kW) and to 250 kW in Attack Mode, from 235 kW previously. Teams will also get a more generous tire allocation for the final run of the Gen2 car design, with an all-new third-generation car making its debut for Season 9 (2022/23).
The Gen3 specification will introduce a closer link between the racecars and the road-going electric vehicles that fans drive: fast charging. ABB becomes the official charging supplier to the series for Season 9 and together with engineers from Formula E and motorsport governing body the FIA, ABB’s Electrification teams are developing an innovative and safe solution for charging the Gen3 cars with portable units that can charge two cars at 80 kW simultaneously. Once the Gen3 cars have completed their overnight charge ahead of each race day, the chargers will top off the batteries of a booster unit that can deliver a fast energy refill.
The span between seasons was a hardly a downtime for ABB’s initiatives in vehicle electrification and greenhouse gas reduction. As part of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, the company announced the ABB Formula E Climate Initiatives, which are focused on three pillars: Innovating technologies; Social progress, diversity and inclusion; and Championing Change. Lucas di Grassi, driver for the ROKiT Venturi Racing team and a past Formula E champion, added first-hand context to a COP26 panel session in his new role as an ABB ambassador. A further dimension of real-world experience was provided by the “ABB Road to COP” video feature, which showcased the ease of undertaking a long journey in a state-of-the-art EV by driving a Porsche Taycan from the south coast of England to COP26’s host city of Glasgow.
The 2021/22 championship is scheduled for its greatest number of rounds yet – 16 in all – and will visit 12 locations around the globe. New venues beyond the Seoul site include Jakarta, Indonesia, and Vancouver, Canada. The series is also scheduled to return to China, one of two planned March races, whose sites will be announced when plans are finalized.