Vroom to Run: ABB Formula E racecar series proving EVs can speed in NYC

July 13, 2022
E-Mobility is sustainability and Net-Zero committed, yes, but it also brings excitement, performance and a fast-moving portrait of what’s possible. Formula E top speeds can reach past 140 miles per hour and burst from zero to 60 in less than three seconds

Anyone pining for true transportation electrification believes the dream will require years and maybe decades of investment to make a reality. It takes time.

Others are aiming to get there at 140 miles per hour.

The ABB Formula E electric racecar series is taking its case to New York this weekend, the first Big Apple race in several years due to COVID. Formula E, of course, is based on the Formula 1 road racing model with the notable difference that its sleek vehicles don’t burn an ounce of gasoline on the track...or anywhere else.

The NYC Grand E-Prix’s 22 drivers will compete at high speeds—not Formula I level, but rising all the time—along the Red Hook Circuit along the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The series wants to turn a spotlight on the potential of electric vehicles to perform at the highest level and prove something to the future.

“ABB FIA Formula E World Championship demonstrates the benefits of e-mobility to a global audience,” Björn Rosengren, CEO of Swiss-based grid technology firm ABB, has said. “Ultimately it is helping us to drive progress towards a more sustainable future.”

The Brooklyn stop is just one in a series of races which cover the world, including later this month in London and winding up the summer in Seoul. Now in its seventh season, the worldwide Formula E was conceived more than a decade ago as a series of notes on napkins shared between Jean Todt and Spanish businessman Alejando Agag at a Paris Restaurant.

Todt is the FIA president (FIA is International Automobile Federation) and Agag now leads their napkin idea turned reality as Formula E chairman. Their thoughts 11 years ago helped form plans for what would become the world’s first all-electric international single-seater.

Three years later, the first race kicked off in Bejing. ABB Formula E now features 11 cars with two drivers each and such well-known automotive names as Andretti, Penske, Jaguar, Porsche and Mercedes, among others.

The NYC E-Prix course at Red Hook features 14 turns over 2.3 kilometers. It offers a visceral thrill for attendees, drivers and sponsors.

“It’s great to be returning to New York city, to once again showcase the future of sustainable transport and just what EVs are capable of,” Theodor Swedjemark, ABB chief communications and sustainability officer, said. “It’s a market in which we (at ABB) have invested more than $14 billion since 2010 in plant expansions, greenfield development, and acquisitions, to accelerate the adoption of e-mobility and electrification—ultimately helping drive progress towards a more sustainable future.”

E-Mobility is sustainability and Net-Zero committed, yes, but it also brings excitement, performance and a fast-moving portrait of what’s possible. It has third party ISO 20121 certification for event sustainability—not something you’ll see at a garden-variety NASCAR race—and publishes sustainability reports on just how much in emissions are released as a result of activities moving the tour around the world. You can see those on the event’s website.

Many historic automotive companies are banking on an E-future, announcing new electric models and moving away from internal combustion machines. ABB is one of the key players in the infrastructure part of that equation, having completed more than 1,000 charging sites in the U.S.

The company also has a Texas training center to provide hands-on instruction for servicing and maintaining E chargers. ABB also is opening a California research and development facility focused on new charging technology.

Those are the logistics. The thrills come with the racing.

These babies can flat move. Top speeds can reach past 140 miles per hour and burst from zero to 60 in less than three seconds. And, Formula E car builders assure us, there's still vroom to grow at the top. 

One of the top teams in Formula E is DS TECHEETAH, its name a portmanteau of technology and a very fast cat. The DS team has won 14 times in 73 races and features drivers Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne.

French-based DS TECHCHEETAH is propelled by a DS E-Tense FE21 powertrain and is currently sitting in second place in the standings.

Holding first place is Monaco’s Rokit Venturi racing, featuring drivers Edoardo Mortara and Lucas DiGrassi. The Rokit’s Formula E car is a Mercedes-EQ chassis with a Silver Arrow powertrain.

The Monaco team didn’t win a single Formula E race for four seasons until Mortara prevailed in 2018 in Hong Kong. Rokit Venturi now has six race victories but still gearing up efforts for a first Formula E title.

All of the teams will be hungry for a win beneath the Manhattan skyline and the image of Lady Liberty in the bay. Fleet electrification and range fear are key things to work out, but they can wait until after the weekend.

E-mobility is hungry for hairpin turns and breakaway speed. The time has come to give sustainability a run for its money.

NYC’s E-Prix kicks off Saturday morning with some practice runs and qualifying. Racing happens through Sunday.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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