Proven technology to be race-tested in most challenging environments with debut of Gen3 racecars in ABB Formula E.
With a 100-race history to its credit and an acknowledged standing as the pioneer of fully electric motorsports series, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship might be expected to open its ninth season of competition with a settled-in look. That’s anything but the case, as December’s pre-season test meeting in Valencia, Spain, revealed.
Instead of merely clearing away cobwebs formed during the off-season, the four days of shakedown runs completed at the Ricardo Tormo circuit – covering 17,300 kilometers (10,750 miles) over 5,128 laps, including a full simulated race day – showcased an entirely new generation of racecars, set to run a globe-spanning schedule with revised rules and significant shifts in key component suppliers. The changes, encompassing everything from the tires through to the strikingly bold paint schemes of the futuristic new cars, foretell the excitement – and considerable challenges – of a fresh approach.
While potentially decisive factors like team switches by drivers, as well as all-new entries and race locations, are predictable, the arrival of the Gen3 cars has added an “all bets are off” air of intrigue to Season 9.
The introduction of the much-anticipated new-breed racecars, with more power, less weight and vastly greater efficiency than their predecessors, represents a leveling of the playing field, as all competitors start with the specified platform. But pre-season testing hinted that any team gaining an advantage in the bustling schedule of early races could gain a championship-winning advantage.
One notable element that will remain consistent for all competitors is the role of ABB as the literal energizing force of the series. For the 16 rounds of the 2023 campaign, ABB graduates to the role of official charging partner of Formula E, responsible for replenishing the batteries of all 11 teams prior to each practice and qualifying session and most important, ahead of every race.
To accomplish this task, ABB developed new hardware that delivers DC fast charges with a compact unit that prioritizes reliable service, compact dimensions and light weight, all vital requirements for meeting the demands of the planet-straddling series. The new chargers, which provide charging rates up to 160 kilowatts, can service two cars at a time, reducing cargo loads when the cars and support gear travel between races.
“We’re delighted to bring our innovative charging solutions to the biggest global e-mobility stage – the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship – continuing our drive to use the series as a testbed for new, more sustainable technologies,” said Frank Mühlon, CEO of ABB E-mobility. “The experience and knowledge we gain will be used to continuously improve ABB chargers for customer and consumer use.”
The miles accumulated in Valencia yielded a positive proof-of-concept for the Gen3 cars, which demonstrated reliability and pace in their first public track outing. While the conditions on the street courses used through the season can be more demanding on the cars, initial impressions were decidedly optimistic.
“It has been a long four days of testing but it has been very successful in my opinion,” said Lucas Di Grassi, an ABB Ambassador driving for the Mahindra Racing team in Season 9. “We had pretty much zero reliability problems with the car, and we were able to do a lot of laps and race simulations, so we are very happy. We are getting our heads around the Gen3 too, which is the main thing.”
Predictably, issues surfaced that will require adaptation and development on the part of the teams. Tires provided by first-year supplier Hankook are, by design, longer-wearing than previous rubber, so drivers will have a learning curve in mastering their characteristics. The cars also have drastically upgraded regeneration capability: 40 percent of the total energy expended in a race is expected come from regen, thanks to the addition of a 250 kW powertrain to the front axle, in addition to the 350 kW available at the rear.
The net gains for Gen3, even beyond the higher top speed of 200 mph, will demand that drivers learn, for example, new braking points for previously familiar corners. That should spell extra entertainment for fans, through closer racing and a wider variety of winners.
The upgrades, along with rules revisions that set a specific lap count for race length, will surely alter the way drivers approach their race plans and energy management strategies. In addition, new race venues will bring further unknowns into play. The global footprint of the ABB Formula E World Championship expands to Hyberadad, India, and Cape Town, South Africa in February, followed by Sao Paulo, Brazil, in March. The United States stop in the 2023 campaign shifts west, from its New York City location of recent years to Portland, Oregon, in June.
Teams and drivers will have barely caught their breath from the Valencia testing when they arrive at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City for the season opener on January 14, kicking off a packed calendar that continues two weeks later in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The championship concludes its 16-round schedule with a double race in London in July.
Click back to these pages throughout the year for the latest updates and follow the series live during race weekends on ABB’s social media channels.