It seems like Nelson Piquet Jr. just won the driver’s championship in Formula E's first season, while Renault e.dams took team honors quite recently. But in fact, it’s been nearly four months. Season Two is about to start this weekend, and for those of you watching, the championship has taken a number of exciting, evolutionary steps forward. Change is happening everywhere! Check it out—here’s a summary of what’s new for the second season of Formula E:
- More manufacturers, more innovation. The series has opened up—it’s no longer a “spec-car series” in which everyone races identical cars. For the second season, eight manufacturers were given the green light to build their powertrains. Teams also have the option of running last season’s McLaren Electronics Systems-built powertrain (a.k.a. drivetrain), which Team Aguri opted for. (At pre-season testing, Amlin Andretti (one of the eight manufacturers) concluded its new powertrain was not ready for the upcoming season and opted to use Season One’s McLaren unit.) Check out this video from Formula E: Dramatic Changes to Drivetrains for Season 2.
- More power. In Season Two, cars will race with 170kW available to them, a bump up from the 150kW allotted during the first season. Two hundred kilowatts will still be used for qualifying.
- New addition to the Safety Team. In addition to the jaw-dropping BMW i8 Qualcomm Safety Car and the BMW i3 Medical Car, two BMW C evolution electric scooters and a BMW X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid will be active at race venues. Speaking of the Qualcomm Safety car, it’s now modified to support the Qualcomm Halo 7.2kW wireless charging system, which provides twice the amount of energy as last year’s system, enabling the car’s batteries to fully charge in about an hour. Qualcomm Technologies is an Official Partner of Formula E.
- New race locations. Monaco and Miami are out. But Paris is in! And other locations are under consideration. One thing is for sure—all new locations will hold true to Formula E’s vision of showcasing the capabilities of EVs in cities where traffic congestion and pollution threaten their allure as well as the health of their citizens.
- More driver consistency. According to a Formula E story, 30 drivers took part in Formula E’s inaugural season—10 more than you need if figure two drivers per team (10). You can attribute this to the novelty of the series, drivers’ contracts with other series and teams, or perhaps driver performance. But this year, Formula E is laying down the law: Teams will be limited to just two driver changes per car during Season Two. Any driver change must be announced two weeks prior to the event, and no changes will be allowed during the final three races to avoid affecting the fight for the championship. Finally, drivers must comply with an e-License system, which ensures participants understand the electrical safety, technical and sporting aspects of Formula E. These changes will force teams to carefully select committed drivers, and provide those drivers dedicated “seat time,” allowing them to master the nuances of driving a state-of-the-art EV in competition. Also, I believe this change will boost fan familiarity with, and support of, drivers.
- Less Fanboost, more Fanboost. Speaking of boost, Fanboost—the technology that allows fans to vote for a driver to get an extra burst of speed—is back! And to keep things exciting, Formula E has made some changes: First, Fanboost-winning drivers will be allowed to use a power band between 180kW and 200kW instead of the 170kW and 180kW from last year. Second, Fanboost-winning drivers will be granted an additional 100 kilojoules (kJ) of energy in one car. And third, the time for fans to vote has been extended—now they can vote up to 6 minutes into the race.
- Shootout qualifying. As of late last month, the FIA was strongly considering a change in race qualifying. Last season, four groups of five drivers had 10 minutes to set their best times. The fastest qualifier started on pole, followed by the second fastest, third fastest, all the way down to the slowest qualifier. That was it. This season, the four groups of five drivers remain, but groups will have only 6 minutes to set their best time. The five fastest of all groups will advance to a “shootout” in which they drive an out lap, a warm-up lap, and finally, a qualifying lap. The slowest of the “fast five” goes first. When that driver starts his flying lap, the driver with the next slowest begins his or her out lap. The order continues in that manner until the fastest of the fast five finishes his or her qualifying lap. Positions one through five on the starting pole are awarded fastest to slowest qualifying lap. The pole winner is awarded three driver’s championship points—same as last season.
- Live streaming. For season two, you can live stream races through Formula E’s site—now you can watch race coverage wherever you take your smartphone or tablet! Also, Formula E has partnered with Facebook to provide fans with exclusive content from this season’s events.
Aside from the logistics of successfully organizing events—Formula E organizers have that covered—and the course knowledge teams gained from last year, this is a brand new series (or as we say in the States, a whole new ballgame) with new powertrain designs, drivers, technology, locations, and rules. Anything is possible. And that’s great, because for fans, it means this season will be as exciting as the last!
Check out Qualcomm’s past coverage of Formula E here.