Exactly a month from today, Formula E starts its fifth season. A lot will have changed compared to the sport we saw at season four’s finale in Brooklyn this summer. When the first race of the season—which takes place in Saudi Arabia, proving Formula 1 has no monopoly on holding races in problematic places—gets underway, it will do so with an entirely new race car, one that solves some of the complaints from skeptics of this all-electric series.
The second-generation Formula E car has double the battery capacity, sporting 56kWh versus 28kWh for the first-gen machine. So those mid-race pit stops to change the car are a thing of the past. And the cars have gotten faster, too, as the video above shows. Audi factory driver Lucas di Grassi is behind the wheel of the original Formula E Spark-Renault SRT_01, as raced in season one. To his right is BMW factory driver Antonio Felix da Costa, equipped with the new Spark SRT05e. As you can see, the new car is a lot more interesting to look at than the old model’s “generic single-seater” styling.
The cars can afford to look like that because on those tight city center street courses, they don’t reach the terminal velocities needed to generate tons of downforce. Yes, a high top speed remains the enemy of electric power, but as anyone who drives a Tesla, Leaf, or other battery-powered car knows all too well, it’s all about the acceleration. Here, the new car handily outshines the older machine, shaving two-tenths of a second from the time needed to hit 100km/h (62mph).
The difference is even more marked in the second challenge, where each car accelerates from a standing start, then hits the brakes when it reaches 150km/h (93mph). The second-gen car is over a second quicker at this test, and similarly is a second faster over a 250m (820 feet) drag race. The race format has also changed to accommodate the new car. Instead of a fixed number of laps, each race will now take 45 minutes (plus one lap to reach the checkered flag), which should do a good job of taxing the drivers and their teams when it comes to managing battery life.
As a long-time supporter of the electric racing series, I’ll be checking back in with it before round one with some more pre-season news. But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this parody the series put together: