World Championship title fight intensifies as teams bring the ABB Formula E show to London

World Championship title fight intensifies as teams bring the ABB Formula E show to London

Victory trophies go to team and driver – yet biggest winner will be e-mobility.

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship this week makes its second transatlantic crossing of the month, heading for a double race weekend in London on July 30 and 31, following two action-charged rounds in New York City. With the season now three-quarters of the way through a 16-race schedule, title chases for drivers and teams continue to be fiercely contested – the contenders narrowed from January’s start of the Season 8 campaign in Saudi Arabia, but far from finalized.

The 2.1-kilometer (1.3 mile) ExCeL Circuit, situated on the Thames waterfront in the London’s Royal Docks area, features an indoor sector that would not be feasible without the zero-pollution powertrains of the Formula E cars. The 22-turn course is modified for Season 8, with a revised chicane in the outdoor section that eliminates a double hairpin turn sequence and shortens the course slightly. The urban track site, like other street courses on the ABB Formula E calendar, presents drivers with a challenging mix of conditions, including elevation changes and surfaces ranging from smooth, high-traction asphalt to coarse, tire-consuming roadway.     

The London race days arrive with the experience of a recent record-breaking heat wave fresh in the memory of competitors – Britain is the home base for many motorsport teams – to offer a timely demonstration of vehicle electrification as a practical measure for countering climate change. ABB’s role as the title partner of the Formula E World Championship, and as a global leader in EV fast-charging equipment, underscores the company’s commitment to greenhouse gas reduction and to fostering a sustainable future with e-mobility as a key component.

The engineering prowess and electric motor expertise of ABB finds a wide variety of applications throughout Britain, from upgrades in the paint shop of the Mini auto plant in Oxford, to deploying ABB Ability Smart Sensors for preventive maintenance improvements at an aggregate plant in Wales.

The involvement of ABB in Formula E also provides learnings that advance the company’s efforts in electric vehicle development, where it is a world leader in electric vehicle infrastructure, having sold more than 680,000 electric vehicle chargers across more than 85 markets, including more than 30,000 DC fast chargers. Confirmation of the championship’s role as a proving ground for e-mobility is sometimes indirect, as in the case of a serious crash in a sudden downpour near the end of the first round in Brooklyn. The lithium ion battery pack in the car of the race leader was damaged and needed to be replaced, but no harm came to the driver or track crews – no fire, no electrical shock – making a good case for the on-road safety of EVs.

Likewise, the value of Formula E as a pathway for improving driver capability is demonstrating a strong potential with the Nissan e.dams team and driver Sébastien Buemi, an ABB Ambassador. Nissan’s “Brain to Performance” initiative, a brain function development program, uses advanced imaging technology to monitor and analyze the brain electrical activity of drivers at the wheel of a simulator – research that can lead to improved driving on the track and, eventually, on the road.

The program’s lead scientist, Lucian Gheorghe, explains that the program seeks to understand what it is about the electrical activity of Formula E drivers’ brains that enables them to do what they do. “Then, if we can, we’d like to help them further improve their performance through bespoke brain training,” he said.

That training takes the form of electrical stimulation, already in the early stages of use for team drivers working in the simulator. Among other benefits that may one day benefit EV drivers on public roads is improving the ability to recognize inputs from the vehicle that are below the threshold where humans normally react. Further training goals for track use and road drivers would include reducing mistakes, extending concentration periods and speeding up response times.

“In the future, could our cutting-edge research help improve the driving skills of the average driver, and inform the development of our road-going EVs?” Gheorghe mused. “We hope so.”  

The London E-Prix promises spirited efforts from all 11 teams in the series as they joust for position in the championship standings. The points lead among drivers shuffled in the New York rounds, with Stoffel Vandoorne, driving for the Mercedes-EQ team, retaking the top spot in the count. Edoardo Mortara, of ROKiT Venturi Racing, the previous points leader, trails by 11 points, with Mitch Evans of the Jaguar TCS team another five points back. Mercedes-EQ regained the lead in team standings based on Vandoorne’s strong showing in New York, while ROKiT Venturi slipped into second place in a tie with DS Techeetah.

The championship travels to Seoul, South Korea, for a double-header season finale on August 17 and 18. Those races will mark the end of the line for the Gen 2 racecars; when the Gen 3 cars debut at Mexico City in January 2023, ABB will add the role of official charging supplier for Formula E.

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