Formula E battery tech delayed by high R&D costs

High R&D costs mean Formula E teams will definitely not develop their own battery technology until the fifth season of the all-electric motorsport, according to the championship’s CEO Alejandro Agag.

Speaking at an event showcasing the layout of the track for the upcoming London ePrix in Battersea Park, Agag confirmed to E&T that teams would have to hold off developing their own battery systems, as it had previously been the series’ intention for teams to use their own battery systems from season three in 2016/17.

Agag said: “The problem is that as we’ve been really looking in to the cost of developing a proper battery with all the latest technology available for year three, the cost is about £5m - maybe more than that - for just the R&D with the existing cells as well.

“We thought, 'Let’s tell the teams to slow down a bit, pool their resources together and develop one battery.' It will be a state-of-the-art battery, but they will all have the same. There is a new battery coming that is probably going to be better than anything than the teams would have done themselves separately.”

Agag believes the new batteries used by all the teams, and now set to be introduced for the third Formula E season, will be based around existing lithium-ion systems. However, he is hopeful there will be new technology available for the teams to develop themselves two years later.

He said: “I don’t think there’s anything ready apart from lithium-ion for season three. For season five, I don’t know - hopefully, maybe lithium-ion with other components. There are all these new chemistries coming out, so if anything is substantially better, we will definitely go for that.”

The London ePrix is set to be the first double-header round of the Formula E championship, as all previous events of the inaugural season have been held over a single day to minimise the disruption to the host city. However, Agag believes that with the infrastructure now in place and interest in the series growing, more double-race rounds could happen next year.

Agag said: “We make all the investments; we build the racetrack and so on, so it makes a lot of sense to do more than one day. Next season there will be another one – the strongest possibility is [in] Berlin. [But] of course you need the appetite of the public to do that. It makes sense in England because [we] have very few tickets left, so clearly there is an appetite for the race and you could do three days if you wanted and it would be full.”

The 2.92km London circuit will utilise the access roads that surround Battersea Park and features a mixture of long straights, sweeping bends and tight chicanes. Although the park location is away from Formula E’s preferred city-centre locations, Agag reckons the setting is still in keeping with the championship’s ideals.

He said: “Whoever designed this beautiful park a couple of centuries ago did it with a racetrack inside and we’re very thankful for that because we only had to do very minor modifications to these roads to make it a fascinating racetrack.

“This is the first time this season that we’re going to race inside a park and we think that’s a great message because clean cars, clean mobility feels very comfortable in a park, in a green space like this.”

FIA Formula E London ePrix, June 27-28 2015

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