ABB Formula E Turns Up the Heat in Marrakesh to Validate EV Resilience

ABB Formula E Turns Up the Heat in Marrakesh to Validate EV Resilience

A forecast of torrid conditions gives the electric racecars a showcase for their adaptability.

THE notion of motorsport as a crucible for advancing the future of road cars faces a real-world test on July 2, when the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship takes to the streets of Marrakesh, Morocco, for Round 10 of the season. Racing in the ancient city for the fifth time, the 2022 round is the first Marrakesh race to be contested in the scorching temperatures of July; all previous visits have been during cooler months early in the racing season.

The forecast of daytime highs in the mid-30s Celsius (90s F) presents a challenge rarely encountered by ABB Formula E competitors. Heat is the adversary of electrical efficiency, so special accommodations to assure optimal cooling of the battery, motor and electronics, as well as measures for managing tire and brake temperatures, will be a priority. The people matter, too: drivers and all other team personnel will also need to adapt their training and routines to the conditions.

With the Atlas Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop, the Marrakesh racecourse takes the drivers close to the ancient medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and through a modern section of the city on the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan. The 3.0-kilometer track (1.9 miles), among the longest of the Formula E season, comprises three straight sections linked by 12 turns, with chicanes, hairpins and sweeping curves to keep the 22-driver field at maximum attentiveness.

Securing the approvals necessary to hold a world championship competition on city-center streets alongside centuries-old architectural treasures, is confirmation that the well-controlled sound levels of the fully electric cars, and their zero-emissions operation, are compatible with the urban setting – exactly like roadgoing EVs. Similarly, it is inherent in the strategy of ABB Formula E that racing is brought to the population centers, where public transportation can serve spectators, rather than having fans travel to an outlying racetrack.

The weeks since the previous round in Jakarta, Indonesia, have offered the drivers and mechanics little respite from the urgent pace of a World Championship campaign. With the teams having taken delivery of the third-generation race cars they will run in Season 9, initial shakedown sessions for the entirely new chassis are well under way. First revealed in conjunction with the Monaco race in April, the new cars are more powerful, faster and lighter, pioneering a trend that passenger vehicles are bound to adopt as the EV market matures.

The first opportunity for the public to witness the Gen3 cars in a competitive setting came at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed in Britain last weekend. There, hillclimb runs by the Mahindra Racing team displayed the vastly improved abilities of its Gen3 car, the M9Electro, even if the sprints did not make full use of the extra 100 kW of power added for Season 9.

Likewise, the Gen3 car’s 200 mph top speed was not demonstrated on the Goodwood course, nor its capability for ultrafast battery charging. Those traits will be on full display in the coming season, when ABB takes on the role of official charging supplier to the series. The ability of ABB to build DC fast chargers both for Formula E and for public installation took a major step forward in June with the opening of a new E-mobility Center of Excellence in Valdarno, Italy. The full range of ABB DC charging solutions will be produced at the Tuscany site, adding a capacity of 10,000 additional DC chargers a year – that’s one charger every 20 minutes – to the 680,000 EV chargers the company has already sold across more than 85 markets.

Arriving in Marrakesh, Stoffel Vandoorne of the Mercedes EQ team continues to lead the driver standings, with 121 points. He is in no position to relax, though, as the top four drivers are separated by just a dozen points. Jean-Éric Vergne of DS Techeetah, a two-time champion, is only five points back, with Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing following a mere two points further behind. Jaguar’s Mitch Evans completes the leading quartet on 109 points. The team standings fall in the same order, a testament to the consistent results for each of the two-car operations.

Following the Marrakesh race, the series travels to New York for the first of three double-header events, before continuing to London and then wrapping up the 16-race season – the most yet for Formula E – in Seoul, South Korea.

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