The Formula E Championship may be the world’s greatest ambassador of electromobility. Last week in Miami, over 20,000 folks got a thrilling look at what EVs can do, and none of them will ever again think of them as poky little golf carts.
The Miami Formula E race was the fifth round of an inaugural season that will visit nine cities on four continents.
Downton Miami was in a state of blissful chaos, as Biscayne Boulevard and other major streets were converted to a racecourse that the announcer described as a “concrete jungle.” Tickets were sold out, and many more locals were getting a free peek at the proceedings. The city’s elite looked on from the balconies of high-rise condos and the upper decks of yachts, while those of lesser means crowded onto the top story of an adjacent parking garage.
No, there’s no engine roar, but the electric racers make an adrenalin-inducing screech that sounds something like a jet engine, and the ground still seems to shake when they whiz past. No smell of racing fuel, but you do catch an occasional whiff of ozone as brake pads are stressed beyond the max.
For this first season, all 10 teams are driving the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, a car built by Spark Racing Technology, in partnership with Renault, Dallara, McLaren, Williams, Hewland and Michelin. Maximum power is 200 kw (270 bhp), but during the race the cars run in “power-saving” mode, which limits the power to 150 kw. A quirky feature called FanBoost allows one driver elected by race fans to temporarily increase maximum power to 180 kw.
Maximum speed is 140 mph, and acceleration from 0-62 mph is 3 seconds (bye-bye, BMW i8 pace car!). The Williams battery pack carries a modest 28 kwh of energy (just a bit more than a LEAF), but there’s no range anxiety on the track – each driver has two cars, and they simply switch midway through the race.
The race went off without a hitch – there were no crashes, and only two of the 20 drivers failed to finish all 39 laps. The winner was Nicolas Prost, driving for the e.dams-Renault team, with a time of 46 minutes, 12.349 seconds. Prost advanced to first place in the season standings, with a total of 67 points.
Round 6 of the Formula E Championship will take place in Long Beach, California, on April 4.
Photos by Charles Morris