NIO Team Principal Gerry Hughes has detailed a changing approach to the Chinese team’s long-term technical approach for the next generation of its Formula E package in 2018.
While Hughes would not explicitly confirm they would run for one final season with the current twin-motor set-up in Season Four, e-racing365 understands that the Season Five technical package will revert to a more conventional single motor design.
The Season Four NextEV NIO 003 challenger, which was unveiled last week in Valencia, has gone through significant modifications that Hughes believes will be a useful precursor to the wholesale change in approach for Season Five.
“We have done a complete new car with the bits that we are allowed to do for Season Four,” Hughes told e-racing365.
“This is because every opportunity for us to do that gives us an opportunity to learn as a team from an engineering and operational point of view.”
Hughes worked closely with NIO Chief Technical Officer Paul Fickers, who is now working in collaboration with the experienced Roberto Costa on the Season Five design.
This is set to be a significant departure for the team.
“Season Five is interesting because all of a sudden the landscape changes massively with large manufacturers coming in and taking a big stake in their representative teams in the championship is an interesting facet of changing to a new car,” he said.
“I suppose that the approach has to be different; it has to have a wider view in terms of those next three seasons, five, six and seven, as the homologation period goes in three-year life cycles.
“We have had to take a longer-term view with respect to technologies and to who we are working with.
“Also, the resources that we have on site are now under our direct control and we use resources that are utilized from the larger network of NIO in Shanghai, so it is a different approach.”
NIO Perception as Privateer is Wrong
Hughes believes his team is sometimes unfairly recognized as a privateer team, and something he is quick to put right.
“It is interesting that some see us a privateer, because we are not,” he said. “We are a manufacturer and we have been since Season Two. That is how we see ourselves, we don’t see ourselves in any other way.
“Maybe in the early stages that may have been by name only as opposed to having a giant OEM in terms of the parent company, but NIO is an emerging car manufacturer and an emerging EV manufacturer, launching our first mass-produced EV in quarter one of 2018.
“So whilst we may appear to be, let’s say a small player with regards to competing with BMW, Audi, Mercedes or Porsche, we are an OEM and I don’t see ourselves as a privateer team at all.”
For the first three seasons of the teams’ existence, several technical partners were evident working with the team, notably U.S.-based gearbox specialist OmniGear and also RationalMotion, which was born from and based at the Toyota Motorsport GmbH headquarters in Cologne.
E-racing365 believes that these partnerships have at least been downscaled or possibly ended as NIO emerges as a more self-sufficient entity with its design office and R&D base at the Begbroke Science Park in Oxfordshire.
“We have gone through a transition as to who we are working with and to what degree we are working with them.” said Hughes.
“But at the end of the day we know exactly where the journey is heading in terms of what we want to do as a manufacturer going forward and that is what we are focussing on at the moment.”