Formula E is like that restaurant near campus all of the college students flock to. It’s not as Instagram worthy as other spots, but it’s inexpensive, practical and gets the job done. Nissan, following behind the manufacturer crowd with its headphones in and backpack halfway zipped, just asked for a seat at the bar.
Nissan will replace Renault, the team that’s won the Formula E manufacturer title in each one of its three seasons thus far, for the 2018-2019 season. (That’s still a season away, since the 2017-2018 season starts in December.) It doesn’t make much sense on the surface, but Motorsport.com reports that Renault wants to trade Formula E success to focus on its “aggressive goals” in Formula One.
Formula E’s first season started in 2014 and ran through 2015, when it became one of the world’s first true electric-racing championships. Since then, it seems like the series has had more manufacturers and sponsors than it knows what to do with. Audi and Porsche both dumped their Le Mans programs for Formula E, and BMW announced it would be there for the 2018-2019 season.
While Formula E doesn’t quite have the on-track oomph that a lot of series have—the racing is so quiet you can hear yourself breathe in the stands, and the speeds aren’t there yet—it has the practicality that automakers need and offers it at the right price.
Racing series have, over the years, been used as testing grounds for durability and performance of road-car technology, so putting electric technology on track is what manufacturers need to do. And teams can do that in Formula E for about $4 million a year, compared to the $200 million annually the World Endurance Championship’s top class costs and the $500 million top teams spend in F1.
So, yeah, Formula E may just seem like that thing everyone else is doing, but it’s the right way to go for testing and development. And in keeping with their existing partnership, Nissan will get help from Renault when it does start racing EVs late next year.