The Benefits of EV Racing, On and Off the Track
The goal of competitive racing isn’t only for the enjoyment of spectators and demonstration of vehicle technology; it also acts as a testing platform for prototype and cutting-edge technology. The same is true for Formula E, where the world goes to try their technological prowess in the world’s first all-electric street racing series . The benefits of such extreme operating conditions allow designers and engineers to improve upon existing technology, which may enable advances in consumer and industrial EVs. A key area where these advancements can be made is with the embedded electronics that monitor, control, and optimize all functions of an electric car, including acceleration, regenerative braking, battery management, and other auxiliary functions.
With this in mind, Renesas and Mahindra Racing formed a partnership for the 2018/2019 season of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship [2,3]. The result of the Mahindra Racing/Renesas partnership has been a growing body of knowledge and experience designing and developing embedded electronics for EVs.
Mahindra Racing’s M5Electro Formula-E Electric Race Car Tech Specs
- Total Operating Mass: 900kg
- Total Length: 5100mm
- Width: 1800mm
- Height: 1050mm
- Ride Height: 50mm
- Electric Motor: Transverse Mounted 3-phase AC Motor
- Inverter: Silicon Carbide (SiC) Switching Inverter (mounted inside the rear carbon casing)
- Transmission: Reduction gearbox with 1 fixed speed, no gear shifts, and no bevel gear
- Battery: 54 kWh monocoque battery unit made by McLaren Applied Technology
- Battery Voltage: 900 V
- Top Speed: 280 kph / 174 MPH
- Race Mode Power: 200 kW / 270 HP
- Maximum Power: 250 kW / 335 HP
This article kicks off a three-part series discussing electric vehicles, Formula E electric race cars, and the necessary components and systems that power these incredible new automobiles. This introductory piece briefly examines the limitations of EV capabilities as a backdrop for the specific design considerations and innovations that came out of the Mahindra Racing/Renesas partnership.
Pushing the Limits of EV Capabilities
Though the basics of an electric car are simply a chassis, wheels/tires, an electric motor, energy storage, and a power control unit, in real consumer vehicles and Formula E electric race cars, these concepts are taken to a higher level of sophistication. With the innate potential of EVs to operate with much greater efficiency than Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles, there is growing adoption and investment in using EV technology to power cars, SUVs, trucks, buses, and race cars.
To achieve this potential, EV manufacturers must find an optimum build of components, technologies, and design. A method of gaining a greater understanding of the limits of specific EV technologies, as well as the methods to optimize their performance, is to use a high-performance environment as a test bed. This is exactly what Formula E is designed for: leading manufacturers from around the world compete with varied EV drive train designs to produce a growing body of knowledge of techniques and methods to get the most out of this new vehicle platform.
Formula E race cars differ from consumer EVs in only a few ways, so there is great potential for the technology developed on the race track to be incorporated into future EVs available to the mass market . Outside of the road-legal regulations and basic mechanical aspects of modern street vehicles, a Formula E race car is different from consumer EVs in that there are a few standardized performance parameters and components for Formula E cars . These parameters include maximum energy storage and power output, though the electric drive train and control electronics is up to the individual Formula E teams to design. These fixed aspects help to ensure a level playing field and enhance competitiveness among drivers.
EV Main Electric Performance Parameters
- Output Power
- Energy Storage Capacity
- Charging Time
- Maximum Velocity
While this article focused on the basic design considerations and limitations of EVs, the second article examines more of the nitty-gritty of electric vehicle components and systems, as well as how commercial electric vehicles differ from Formula-E electric race cars. The final article will dive into the world of embedded electronics and how they play an essential role in fueling the electric revolution.