Another German Carmaker Just Dropped Formula E

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Photo: BMW Group

BMW on Tuesday announced that it is officially bowing out of the ABB Formula E Championship after competing in the series for seven seasons (as a factory team since season five). The automaker’s withdrawal is not effective immediately, but will finalize at the end of the upcoming season, which kicks off next month with a double header in Chile.

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It’s less of a swift pull of the plug and more of a sunset of its Formula E operations. Still, the news is a setback: BMW is the second team to announce its departure this week, following an earlier announcement from Audi that it’s withdrawing from Formula E at the end of the upcoming season.

BMW Group struck a dramatic tone in its press release, stating that all opportunities to apply knowledge gained on the track to production EVs has been exhausted. In other words, the well has run dry and there is no point in sticking around. Here’s a clip from BMW’s announcement:

The same engineers who develop the drivetrains for electric production vehicles are also responsible for the drivetrains in the race cars. Examples of the successful transfer of technology between the Formula E project and production development include new findings regarding energy management and energy efficiency, the transfer of software for power electronics from racing to production, and an improvement in the power density of the e-motors.

The statement broadly outlines what it was that BMW transferred from track to showroom as a result of its racing in Formula E, and it briefly mentions the team’s modest record in the series. But the press release mostly seems sponsored by the letter “P” as in “production.”

BMW emphasized that its decision comes on the heels of a realignment and renewed commitment to increase EV production. There just seems to be little return on investment in the series; the company said that investment is better directed elsewhere.

Cost has been a recent concern for the teams, and that prompted the FIA to draft regulations addressing this. But even with upcoming regulations mandating significantly lower operating costs, it seems BMW would rather its resources go to meeting the EV goals.

That’s not going to be easy. BMW wants one million of its EVs on the road by the end of next year, and seven million by the end of the decade. That’s a lot of blue-and-white roundels, let alone a lot of EVs.

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Now we have two German marques leaving FE, but at least Mercedes is still sticking around. The upcoming season will be the first to have FIA World Championship status, so maybe the BMW i Andretti team will rally near the end.

DISCUSSION

By
Romeo Reject

Unfortunately, I kinda get it. Let’s not kid ourselves: Racing has never made sense from a cost-investment perspective. The tens of millions of dollars spent on making a bespoke product work in very limited circumstances is a terrible use of R&D.

At least on the more conventional racing names (Formula 1, Nascar, LeMans) there’s brand recognition in addition to the R&D, which is something I feel Formula E just doesn’t have going for it. It’s a racing series where every car looks 100% identical, has the same motor and the same battery. There’s just nothing to justify the costs from a brand’s perspective.