Formula E 2016/17: A tech update

With pre-season testing drawing to a close this week, and little over a month until the first race of the new season, the 2016/17 FIA Formula E Championship is looming large on the global motorsport calendar.

In addition to new races in New York, Montreal and Marrakesh – to name but a few – Formula E has also introduced several regulation updates as the series enters its third season.

On the whole, the rules changes promote an intelligent evolution of the technology under the skin of the cars rather than promoting a revolution – the formula is being refined, taking into account learnings from last season without forcing teams to take unnecessary risks.

The following is a guide to the major overhauls that will shape this year’s Championship.

Enhancing efficiency

The 2016/17 Formula E season will see the permitted amount of energy regeneration increase from 100kW to 150kW.

While the full impact of this regulation change will become more obvious in Season Four and Season Five, when the maximum power output will rise to 220kW and 250kW respective, it is expected that this will allow drivers to race harder for longer by significantly enhancing their efficiency and somewhat reducing the reliance on the car’s initial charge.

Expect to see more wily drivers drawing on the increased regeneration capacity to support overtaking on longer straights after heavy braking areas – as ever the regulations are designed to blend close racing with technological advances.

To facilitate greater regeneration, the allowable weight for battery cells has risen from 200kg to 230kg, although some of this will be offset by the reduction in the maximal weight of the car – which will fall 8kg to 880kg in total.

Nose job

One notable change is the introduction of a new front wing faring, which has purely been implemented for aesthetic and branding purposes. The wing now runs across two layers, blending with the front wheel farings to reflect the style of the RoboRace car, which is set to become the official FIA Formula E support race this season.

The wing redesign brings greater brand continuity and helps to further differentiate Formula E from other series, which is no bad thing. The making of this design will be whether it can withstand crash damage without requiring a replacement – one only need think of the number of mechanical warning flags shown during last season’s Berlin ePrix to consider the potential implications on a driver’s race this season if the structural integrity is compromised and considered dangerous by race officials.

Defining areas of innovation

As with all motorsport, Formula E teams will be looking for loopholes within the regulations that may provide them with a competitive edge. Just last season we saw multiple teams testing new designs for lightweight wheels, and the FIA has been quick to address other areas that could be exploited.

Key highlights include:

  • “Changing the adjustment of the springs, the shock absorbers and the anti-roll bars from inside the cockpit is forbidden” – This regulation effectively bans the introduction of active suspension, forcing teams to focus their efforts on powertrain engineering, keeping the series as relevant to road car production as possible
  • “All parts of the wheel rim must move at the same rotational velocity” – Thus restricting the possibility of aerodynamic ‘dustbin-lid’ rim farings, as see in F1 some years ago
  • “Air ducts are for the sole purpose of cooling the front brakes (and rear brakes) and not producing downforce” – The regulations covering the placement of brake ducts has been adapted, and will allow for greater cooling capacity in line with the regeneration power hike. This could be an area of real distinction for the teams
  • “Turning vanes and barge boards are forbidden except for in the radiator inlet duct” – While this is an area of potential aero development, teams will be eager to channel air inside the cars to maximise battery cooling. This area of development may not be obvious to the naked eye, but could offer scope for varying solutions

The full 2016 FIA Formula E Championship Technical Regulations can be read here.

The 2016/17 FIA Formula E season commences in Hong Kong on Saturday 9th October. For more information, visit www.fiaformulae.com

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