Electric Car Racing Sparks EV Sales

September 10, 2021

How Electric Car Racing is Driving EV Sales

A survey by a Michigan-based research company suggests that motorsports influence a large percentage of new car buyers. This goes back to the old car buying motto, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” Do people really go out and buy a specific brand and model of car after seeing its race car counterpart win a big race? The study by Foresight Research suggests that they do. It’s a notion that may have an impact on future electric car sales.

Real Winners: Electric Vehicles

Case in point, BMW's Maximilian Günther and Jaguar's Sam Bird captured the checkered flags at the thrilling New York City E-Prix racing doubleheader in Brooklyn recently. But the real winners, race organizers hope, are electric vehicles themselves.

The ABB FIA Formula E's all-electric street racing series, held in some of the world’s most iconic cities, is meant to showcase EV technology in the very places electric cars are likely to have the biggest impact. For automakers, it also acts as a test bed for innovation in sustainable mobility. “If we win and we are successful, we can show the world we are a step ahead on technology,” says Pascal Zurlinden, director of factory racing for Porsche AG.

Now in its seventh season, the Formula E tour has advanced and evolved right alongside EV technology. For instance, batteries in the first generation of race cars lasted only 25 minutes, so teams had to swap cars midway through the race. But the current generation of cars utilize a lightweight 250-kilowatt battery and a top speed of 174 mph, eliminating the need for pit stops during the 45-minute race. The entire 24-car field uses the same battery pack, which was designed and manufactured by Lucid Motors through its Atieva technology division.

Test Bed for EV Innovation

Each car team designs the rest of the car’s powertrain such as the electric motor, inverter and gearbox, but the vehicle’s design can’t change after the season begins. The only permitted changes are software updates to optimize thermal management. To win, racers need to strike the perfect balance between power and efficiency; the very same riddle that engineers designing standard EVs are trying to solve.

Auto racing has long been a laboratory for future automotive technology. Jaguar, for example, pioneered disc brakes at the 24 hour Le Mans race in 1953. Today, disc brakes are widely available on all vehicles. The British carmaker is already implementing lessons learned from Formula E racing, says James Barclay, team director of Jaguar Racing. A software update added 12 miles of extra range to the 2021 Jaguar iPace electric SUV.

The thought is that the success of all-electric car racing may inspire consumers to consider purchasing a new EV. Since transportation is the cause of the largest source of greenhouse gasses on the planet, automakers are rushing to replace their gasoline-powered vehicles with electric models as governments tighten tailpipe emissions rules and companies face pressure to act on climate initiatives.

Formula E Racing on the Rise

The fact is, Formula E racing is growing, adding new cities next year to include Vancouver, Canada, Cape Town, South Africa, and Seoul, South Korea, expanding to a record 16 races across four continents. The technology continues to evolve as well. Batteries in the next generation of race cars will pack 350 kWh of energy into a smaller, lighter package, meaning even better performance.

As the E race series gains traction, so might its influence on your decision for purchasing the perfect zero-emission vehicle.