All-electric racers in New York aim to become American idols

All-electric racers in New York aim to become American idols

On the Brooklyn waterfront, ABB Formula E aims to inspire a new generation of race fans and e-mobility converts with a dramatic display of sustainable technology.

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship arrives in New York City for back-to-back races on July 16 and 17 – the series’ fifth time competing on the urban racecourse traced around the Red Hook district. The emblematic 2.3-kilometer (1.4 miles), 14-turn course – set against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline – is laid out at a busy cruise ship terminal, providing memorable views of icons such as the Statue of Liberty for both spectators and television viewers.

Despite thousands of miles separating Red Hook, a trend-setting enclave within the city’s Brooklyn borough, from the preceding races in Marrakesh, Morocco, and Jakarta, Indonesia, it shares a primary challenge for the championship’s 11 teams: heat. The steamy atmosphere of a New York summer presents much the same conditions as those earlier rounds, testing the ingenuity of the racers, and in a larger sense, demonstrating the viability of high-performance electric vehicles.

For the Tag Heuer Porsche Formula E team, ABB’s partner in promoting e-mobility, responsibility for adapting to the trying conditions falls largely on the shoulders of Florian Modlinger. As Porsche’s director of factory motorsport for the series, Modlinger notes that teams have limited workarounds available to cope with the temperature limits of the battery, brakes and tires.

“We are not allowed to modify the car,” he said, referring to the regulations designed to keep competition close. “On the brake side, we can work only with blanking [to regulate cooling airflow]. For the tires, it will be tough in the race. We expect track temperatures around 50 degrees Celsius, so you can imagine how important it will be to keep them in good shape.”

Heat is the enemy of electrical efficiency, so race crew will be intently focused on temperatures of the battery, motor and power electronics, Modlinger added. “Regarding the battery temperature, the preparation of the car before the race is essential. And in these extreme conditions, the frequency of monitoring the battery temperatures is higher than normal.”

A driver always plays a crucial role in looking after the car’s wellbeing, but it expands on scorching July days. In addition to managing the battery’s energy store to ensure a race finish, he may need to adjust his driving to keep temperatures in the proper range. High loads of energy recovery when slowing – the regeneration mode that charges the battery – create heat, so it may become necessary to lower that setting and to alter the point at which he lifts off the accelerator and coasts.

Each competitor will try to deploy a race strategy in New York that will produce a breakout leader for the Season 8 points leadership, but it won’t be a simple matter. Coming into the 11th and 12th races of a 16-race season, it’s a brutally close contest for the season title, with Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing in the lead after his win in Marrakesh, his third of the 2021/22 campaign. Close behind – a mere four-point spread separating the second through fourth places – are Jean-Éric Vergne of DS Techeetah, Stoffel Vandoorne driving for Mercedes-EQ, and Mitch Evans, also a three-time winner this season, at TCS Jaguar Racing. The contest for the teams championship is every bit as tight, led by ROKiT, with Techeetah and Mercedes barely trailing – just seven points spanning the three.

Adding to the pressure on the teams at this point in the season is the initial development work underway for the Gen3 cars that will debut early next year. Essentially a fresh start, because the new cars will be more powerful, lighter and use a new tire supplier, race strategy will also be overhauled to accommodate ultrafast pit-stop battery charging. In the new season – a calendar of 18 races in 13 cities, including first-time stops in Hyderabad, India, and Sao Paulo, Brazil – ABB adds the role of official charging supplier to its existing title partnership of the sustainability-focused series.

ABB’s expertise in energy management and condition-monitoring of electrical equipment – in addition to its leadership in charging technology as the maker of 680,000 EV chargers, sold across more than 85 markets – has applicability well beyond Formula E. In the United States, ABB is partnering with dealers of PACCAR trucks, which include the Kenworth and Peterbilt brands, to provide high-power fast-charging solutions for fleet operations. The company has also signed a global framework agreement with Shell to provide chargers, including the Terra 360 model, as the refining giant expands its gasoline station services to include EV charging.

The commitment of ABB to sustainability reaches deeper, thanks to its role as the supplier of electrical systems for two new U.S. plants, in the states of Georgia and New York, that will produce green hydrogen. Engineered to make hydrogen more affordable and accessible, and powered entirely by electricity from renewable sources, the hydrogen will replace fossil fuels now powering forklifts and heavy-duty freight vehicles.

Following the New York race, the championship travels to double-header events in London and then wraps up the 16-race season – the most yet for Formula E – in Seoul, South Korea.

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