James Allen on EV: Europe’s new plan for high profile electric racing

The governing body of world motor sport, the FIA, is working on a new racing series for EVs, starting in 2013 its president Jean Todt told me last week.

By James Allen on April 4, 2011 10:11 AM

I went to the FIA headquarters in Paris to interview Todt and we covered a wide range of topics. But the EV racing story caught my attention because it comes with serious EU backing from the vice president of the EU Commission Antonio Tajani.

Such is the interest in promoting EVs among Europe’s politicians, they want to spread the word about the technology and project a fun image for it. And so they’ve approached the FIA to get them to organise EV racing series to leverage F1’s powerful media platform globally.

Todt is setting an increasingly green agenda for the future of motorsport, with F1 set to radically increase the percentage of hybrid activity in the powertrain of F1 cars from 2013 onwards.

But this new EU initiative is taking it to the next level.

“We have started an FIA Electric commission,” said Todt, “The commission president is Burkhard Goeschel, who used to be on the board of BMW. I’ve had meetings with Antonio Tajani, the EU industry commissioner and we are working with them to create new racing categories. It’s something we want as soon as possible. Realistically it will be difficult to do something before 2013.

“The EU feels that if we can have an electric category it will be very strong because they believe very much in EVs for the future.

"We could have a karting category, a single-seater category. As much as we can do, all over the world, we will do, because it’s a worldwide programme.

This is welcome news. Independent of the FIA, plans are well advanced for a new series called the EV Cup, which is due to start in the UK this summer. There are three classes of car, one of which, the iRacer, is a purpose built race car developed for the EV Cup race series by Westfield. The iRacer has a boost button to help promote overtaking, which can be used tactically during the races.

The EV Cup also features a prototype category, which will showcase the latest electric technology.

Todt highlights the issue of noise and this is the one handicap that EV racers need to overcome. It doesn’t have to be deafening, but it does need to sound exciting and from what I’ve heard, the developers have ideas on that, with a turbine type noise the favoured solution. This is something the EV industry as a whole has been looking at due to safety concerns about the quietness of EVs on the road at low speeds.

Competitive racing series always fast-track technology. It has been the case with F1 throughout its history, where it has been used by manufacturers as an R&D laboratory for road car technology, and so it will be with the FIA’s EV series. And ultimately that should benefit everyone.