If you ask any race fan what the point of top-tier motorsport is, they’ll probably wax poetic about how it showcases the very best automotive technology.
They’ll tell you the engineering behind Formula 1 cars and their power units is the pinnacle of what’s possible. They might also explain to you that F1 is a testing ground for new ideas that may one day find their way into road cars.
While it’s true that features such as traction control, active suspension and anti-lock brakes can all trace their origins back to F1, other technology such as the power units may take a little longer to trickle down to normal road users.
Now, electrically charged Formula E says it also wants to see its onboard tech transition onto the road.
You might think the obvious way to go about this would be to stick an electric Formula E drivetrain into a normal road car. But no, that’s not what Envision Virgin Racing has decided to do.
Instead, it’s adding extra seats to a race car to show that its battery tech can also carry passengers. I think.
The two-seat racer was constructed by Envision Virgin Racing and sustainable energy firm Johnson Matthey to showcase its new battery tech in the car.
The electric race car, said to be the very first electric two-seat racer, showcases a new type of lithium-ion battery that uses new materials to enhance range and battery lifetime.
According to the team, the new battery will offer a maximum power output of 250 kW, which will give the car a top speed of 149 mph and allow it to hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. In contrast, the current second-generation car being raced in Formula E has a top speed of 174mph but just one seat.
While it’s great that Formula E tech is being tested out for other uses, we have to wonder, is this the most real-world scenario they could think of? Why is this new tech being showcased for the first time in an aerodynamic racer, and not a regular family car?
Well, according to the race team, on-track trials of the new tech will offer an “accurate indication of how the battery could perform in commercial use”. Which I guess means that the commute for people at Envision Virgin Racing is wildly different from the daily drives of most people.
The car will initially go on display at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, alongside a model of a Formula E car made entirely from plastic waste.