Method E most likely hoped that its preseason check could be the reason for many headlines this week. Forward of the electrical racing collection’ seventh season begin in Chile in January, 12 groups gathered at a race observe in Valencia, Spain, to run their new cars in earnest for the first time. As an alternative, it was the sudden announcement that each Audi after which BMW will make season seven their final that bought a lot of the consideration.

Predictably, the game’s detractors have been fast to grab on this as proof that electrical energy and racing vehicles simply do not go collectively. Here is why I feel they’re mistaken.

Racing to make higher highway vehicles

When Audi unveiled its FE07 final week, the group held a digital tech speak displaying off its new Method E powertrain. Known as the MGU05, it is a compact package deal of carbon fiber and steel that makes the series-mandated 250kW (335hp) with 97 p.c effectivity and an total mass of simply 77lbs (35kg). For the primary time since Audi entered the game formally in season four, it developed the powertrain fully in-house, an expertise that Stefan Aicher, head of growth e-Drive at Audi Sport, mentioned was “one of the intensive and difficult tasks ever.”

Why would an enormous automobile firm go to this type of effort? “The corporate principally differentiates itself as a result of its technical excellence, and that is been proper again from the start within the Audi Quattro rallying instances—bear in mind the event of quattro programs,” identified McNish. That led to IMSA and DTM campaigns to show all-wheel drive within the Eighties and Nineties, then to the all-conquering Le Mans program that used racing to show new applied sciences like direct injection, hybrid systems, and even laserbeam headlights.

In 2016, Audi killed off its endurance prototype program in favor of Formula E. On the time, then-chairman Rupert Stadler defined the swap to Method E, saying, “As our manufacturing vehicles have gotten more and more electrical, our motorsport vehicles, as Audi’s technological spearheads, need to much more so.” And the road-relevance of Method E competitors was additionally introduced up by McNish final week. “That [technology] filters by, and it is on the automobile that Lucas [di Grassi, one of Audi’s two Formula E drivers] and I drive daily on the highway and likewise all people else at dwelling as nicely,” McNish mentioned.

Nothing left to be taught

However six days after telling us about how Method E was serving to make its electrical vehicles higher, Audi’s tune modified. In 2022, the German OEM will enter the Dakar Rally with a collection hybrid off-road race. And it should return to endurance races like Le Mans and Daytona. The worth is its Method E program, which is able to finish on the conclusion of the approaching season. “We’re taking the subsequent step in electrified motorsport by going through probably the most excessive situations. The various technical freedoms provided by the Dakar Rally present an ideal check laboratory for us on this respect,” mentioned Audi board member Markus Duesmann.

Yesterday, BMW adopted swimsuit, revealing that it too was leaving Method E on the finish of season seven. And the corporate mentioned the quiet half out loud. “In terms of the event of e-drivetrains, BMW Group has basically exhausted the alternatives for this type of know-how switch within the aggressive surroundings of Method E,” BMW mentioned in a press launch.

One in every of Method E’s large promoting factors to opponents is that it is truly fairly low-cost in comparison with different world championships. Audi spent tons of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} between 2000-2016 to win Le Mans 13 instances. Even with its new value cap, Method 1 groups can (and can) spend $145 million a season. However you may compete—and win—in Method E for a tiny fraction of that, with COVID-induced belt-tightening making subsequent season even more affordable.

A significant factor in holding Method E budgets so low is the truth that many technical elements of the automobile are tightly locked down. Everybody makes use of the identical make of chassis, and even batteries are standardized to forestall groups from participating in an costly arms race creating power-dense chemistries that excel on observe however which have little relevance for manufacturing vehicles.

That leaves electric motors, energy electronics, and software program as the one actual avenues for growth. Even these are restricted within the variety of upgrades allowed every year, and it appears each Audi and BMW have discovered all they will.

OEM racing applications come and go

If there’s one factor you may assure about racing, it is that OEM involvement will wax and wane. A day after Audi’s announcement and a day earlier than BMW’s, Volkswagen axed its entire motorsport program. Porsche has ended its American factory-backed race program. And naturally in October, Honda referred to as time on its Method 1 program.

If the critics are proper and shedding a sixth of its producers spells serious trouble for Formula E, what does that say concerning the well being of Method 1, contemplating that collection loses 1 / 4 of its producers with Honda’s exit? Lest we neglect, Honda is leaving Method 1 as a result of it says it is extra necessary to spend that finances—$146 million a yr—on developing electric vehicles instead.

That is why I am not too involved concerning the lack of BMW and Audi from Method E. The game is at present capped at a most of 12 groups, and meaning there are slots for 2 new entrants in 2022, which additionally sees the introduction of the Gen 3 race car. A Honda Method E group has already been ruled out, however I would not be shocked to see Hyundai taking one of many obtainable slots; the corporate was known to be eyeing the series even earlier than its huge electrification effort.

We might nicely see the opposite entry go to one of many many EV startups. In spite of everything, a number of million {dollars} price of publicity generated by a Method E marketing campaign is barely a drop within the bucket when buyers are throwing billions at nearly everybody making an attempt to observe Tesla’s lead.

Itemizing picture by Audi

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