Prospective suppliers of Formula E racing cars have until the end of this month to register with the FIA. Several of the teams already involved in the sport have expressed an interest in developing powertrains for the second season. Here’s what we thought was worth pointing out from the FIA documentation:
Firstly, suppliers must agree to abide by technical and sporting regulation changes, and the FIA points out that significant technological evolution is expected. However, there are no updated technical specifications setting out what will be permitted in the 2015-16 season, which might make committing a little less like a technical exercise and more like a giant leap of faith. Are suppliers signing up for a chassis, an electric motor, a battery – or all of the above?
Then there is the timescale. Suppliers will be invited in for meetings with the FIA in November, and confirmation of registration will be made by 15 December. Homologation will follow. Compare that to the development of the Spark-Renault in 2012: the motors were tested over the summer as the battery was being designed, the chassis was unveiled in September, first shakedown runs began in December and full race battery was fitted in the spring. To have a realistic chance of being ready for the 2015 season, based on the Spark example, prospective suppliers really need to have their products working now.
Thirdly, costs. Just to register requires suppliers to stump up €30,000 in “administration fees” – and that’s whether the application is successful or not. The supplier then commits to making the car available to at least three teams (so that’s 12 cars, plus spare parts), and to charging no more than €400,000 per car.
The supplier also has to be associated with a car manufacturer to qualify. That’s what Spark has done of course, with Renault providing the backing and the name to green light the first year’s chassis. While the stipulation is evidently designed to encourage early (and highly newsworthy) participation of big automotive brand names, it also rules out development of the sport through the sort of privateer firms that have built F1, unless they can secure the rubber stamp of a car maker.
That could be an opportunity missed, as the smaller firms are often more agile and better able to participate in emerging fields. The condition would allow for entries by Mahindra and Venturi of course.