Jaguar has announced that it will contest the next season of Formula E, as the race to develop more efficient and affordable electric cars gears up.
British carmaker Jaguar has officially confirmed that it will enter a full factory-backed team into the 2016 Formula E championship. The motor racing series, currently in the midst of its second season, is competed by teams entering electric-powered cars, racing on street circuits around the world.
Formula E is seen as a fertile breeding ground for innovation and technology development, as teams are given relative carte blanche to try out new ideas in a competitive environment. Teams currently run two cars per driver per race, performing a switch at the mid-race point due to the limited battery life of the vehicles.
At its inception, Formula E teams were all provided with identical machinery and were only given limited scope to alter its specification. Now, teams are free to build their own powertrains, gearboxes and cooling systems.
It is hoped that in the quest for victory, manufacturers will eventually develop new storage systems that provide longer periods of use between charges and more efficient performance. Clearly, this is one of the real-world applications that have lured Jaguar into the fold, joining Renault and Citroen in their announcements that they also intend to make the jump into e-motorsport.
The Indian-owned car marque, which has a rich history of success in motorsport, with an albeit brief and unsuccessful foray into Formula One under its belt, is not the first big name to be drawn to the fledgling series; Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson both own Formula E teams and have touted the championship as the future of motorsport, citing Formula One’s constrictive regulations as an obstacle to innovation.
Jaguar is one of many carmakers that will hope to make significant inroads into the electric vehicle (EV) market in the coming years. A recent report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) found that the number of sold EVs in the EU rose from a mere 760 in 2010 to 70,000 in 2014, with 65% of the latter figure actually manufactured in the EU itself. The trend is set to continue this year.
To some extent it is a question of image. In the past, electric cars have arguably been stigmatised as being unreliable or uncool. Their often clunky designs, the result of carmakers’ attempts to make the vehicles look futuristic or cutting-edge, have sometimes been met with scorn by car reviewers and consumers alike. This appears to be changing, as BMW’s and Tesla’s latest efforts have shown: electric cars can be beautiful.
Taking the glamour of Formula One, keeping its exotic locations, hiring a raft of ex- and future stars to drive the cars and tapping into the race to go green might allow Formula E to be a driving force in electric car development.
Electrification of the EU’s vehicle fleet and a greater focus on e-mobility is one of the aims of the Energy Union, as the bloc aims to build an energy-efficient, decarbonised transport sector. Pitting the continent’s most prestigious manufacturers against one another, in a high-intensity competition, which is rapidly gaining in popularity, may provide the spark that the industry needs to make significant and lasting change to the way cars are made.