The ABB FIA Formula E Championship is still yet to hit its zenith but could do so in its third era of competition, according to DS Techeetah team principal Mark Preston.
Preston, who has been a team principal in Formula E since its inception in 2014, believes that the series is yet to determine whether it informs the burgeoning automotive EV scene or purposefully follows its technical trends.
Ten manufacturers will take part in the coming sixth season with debutants Mercedes-Benz and Porsche joining Audi, Nissan, DS, BMW, Jaguar, Mahindra, Penske and NIO as registered manufacturers.
Of the nine, only Penske does not supply automotive products for retail.
“We haven’t reached peak EV yet, never mind peak Formula E, that is still to come I’m sure of it,” Preston told e-racing365.
“When you are a vehicle dynamist like I was in F1, you have a problem with a petrol engine because it is hard to control because you have a gearbox that has backlash, and a diff and driveshafts, etc.
“The ultimate EV car is simple, it has four wheel independent motors. That is when we have reached peak EV in terms of out and out performance.”
Preston argues that manufacturers will be influential in guiding the rules-makers to forming the next generation of car and how it stays important to what consumers are driving on the roads.
“Sure we have to talk about road relevance and what is important there,” he says.
“This makes sense because Formula E is now 90 percent manufacturers and we know why they find Formula E attractive because it is relevant, races in cities and is low cost relative to F1 or some other series.”
Preston would like to see advancements in the technology to grow with what is being introduced to road cars. However, he does think that it should be done in a collaborative and responsible manner.
“What are the key parts for Formula E in the next phase, Gen 3? Is it fast charging, is it four wheel drive, is it regen on front axles?
“We are looking around to see what can be used in the next rules set but it’s quite complex.
“My opinion and what is in my head is ultimately four wheel drive, independent electric motors and at this point you are at the pinnacle of EV. Then you have true torque vectoring and full regen of axles.”
Right Balance of Tech and Sustainability Crucial
As an engineer Preston worked in F1 from 1997 to 2008 and was involved in several radical F1 designs including the McLaren MP4-18, which has been described as one of F1’s biggest ‘no expense spared’ projects and featured innovations such as a titanium/composite gearbox.
Although not suggesting that Formula E should follow similar paths, Preston believes that EV tech is still trying to understand its own development pace and what might be attractive for consumers.
“I remember in F1 years ago the car companies knew what they were going to do in the next decade. They knew where the tech was coming from whether it was direct injection or twin-turbos, etc,” he said.
“In EV generally there isn’t 100 percent clarity and confidence on where the complete direction is going, so it makes it tricky for Formula E.
“Should we be ahead of the cars or not? That is what we have to figure out going forwards I guess.”
“As always it is a big balance on what is cool and attractive and then what is relevant and cost effective and efficient is crucial.
“But I think all these elements should be looked at because Formula E should continue to be the cool kid in racing.”