Formula E is making rapid progress in the world of electric motorsport, quickly developing through two generations of chassis and motor technology. The third generation specification is set to introduce rapid charging during pit stops and massive increases in power and speed, bringing it up to the task of an FIA World Championship. There are still limitations to electric motor racing, but the series is developing in leaps and bounds. It does that by looking much farther into the future than just tomorrow.
For years the series has been trying to develop itself into something that everyone can take seriously. It’s some of the best and closest racing on the planet, and deserves your attention already, but it’s only going to get better and faster and more impressive with each successive generation. I can’t claim to have clairvoyance, but one of hydrogen’s limited use cases could indeed be electric motorsport. Because hydrogen allows the cars to refill their tanks much quicker than even the fastest of fast charging might, I could see this becoming the new standard for electric racing. You know, if they want to eventually hold races longer than 50 minute sprints.
Allegedly series founder Alejandro Agag has a deal with the FIA that Formula E is the only electric single-seater series out there. According to a conversation Agag had with Motorsport: “Hydrogen is within the license of Formula E with the FIA.” So that answers that question. It’s possible that the series will shift to hydrogen fuel cell whenever Gen 4 comes around.
“There are two ways to use hydrogen, one way is to burn the hydrogen, which is very inefficient, but some people are working on maybe making it more efficient.
“The other way, which is the one we would use, is a hydrogen fuel cell that basically produces electricity that then powers an electric motor.
“So as soon as those technologies start being widely available and operating in a racing level, we will definitely look into those.”
Now, you might think this is a long way off. After all, the series hasn’t quite launched Gen 3 just yet. Gen 1 lasted four seasons from 2014 to 2018, while Gen 2 is scheduled to be phased out mid-2022 after being introduced back in mid-2018. If that consistent four-years-and-out schedule is to be maintained, we’re looking at a Gen 4 launch around 2026, which isn’t really that far away when you think about it.
Hydrogen seems like it’ll work great for long haul trucking, massive tanker and freight ships, and electric sprint and endurance motorsport. That’s pretty much it. I don’t think it’ll ever take off as a means of powering personal transportation in any meaningful capacity. So, let’s go racing!