Formula E battery competition postponed

FIA Formula E has today confirmed that the championship will not open up battery development to teams and manufacturers until the series’ fifth season, in 2018/19.

The previous Formula E roadmap stipulated that open battery competition would be introduced for the 2016/17 season in a bid to advance energy storage and deployment technology. However, this target has proved to be too ambitious according to reports in Autosport today, and current battery manufacturer Williams Advances Engineering is now expected to develop the series’ powerpacks for at least another two seasons.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, commented: “For years three and four it’s going to be a new battery, but the same for everyone. [It will be a] new design from Williams, in principle.”

“It’s not signed but it’s really looking like we’re going in that direction.”

Season three progress

Williams Advanced Engineering is already progressing development of the next generation of Formula E battery, which will be used by teams in next year’s Championship, but will not finalise its design until the series’ technical and sporting regulations are defined.

As such, it is unclear whether the new batteries will provide a power increase on the 28kWh of energy and maximum power output of 200kW generated by the current 200kg lithium-ion cells.

Gary Ekerold, Programme Leader at Williams Advanced Engineering, commented: “We are looking at a season three battery. We feel we’d be capable of meeting the needs.”

“Naturally our experience of the last year and a half will help us build a better quality product.”

“Energy is probably more challenging than anything else because of the limited packaging space. The cell technology is developing without question, so we would like to think by season three or four there’s a slight improvement but you’re not going to get a massive step change between two and three.”

“Unfortunately the chassis is static until season five. So in terms of packaging space, it’s still the same.”

“You could argue we could design a new battery box, but it would require crash testing, passing UN regulations, all these extra things that fundamentally don’t lead to a better battery. Power increase is a possibility but we’ve got to find a balance between reliability and technology.”

Of course improvements in other areas that are open to development, such as the drive train, or even tyre technology, could provide greater efficiencies that will maximise existing available power. Meanwhile other innovations such as wireless charging are already under consideration and have been deployed to power the BMW i8 safety car, and could alleviate some of the battery development restrictions before the series fifth season.

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