Formula E Racing Depends on Connectors for High-Speed Thrills

By Amy Goetzman | April 24, 2018

All-electric vehicles scorch the raceway with the help of precision electronics.

The electronics world finally has its own high-speed sport. Just don’t blink, or you’ll miss it. Formula E Racing, an electric car racing championship series that features all-electric drive trains and the latest, fastest performance automotive designs, destroys any uninformed notion that electric vehicles lack power. The latest Formula E vehicle features 250 horsepower, can accelerate from 0–62mph (0–100km/h) in three seconds, and reaches a maximum speed of 175mph (281km/h).

Races are set on city street circuits around the world, and the juxtaposition of exotic locales, ancient cities, and high-style, cutting-edge technology has quickly made the young sport popular with audiences — and with electronics company engineers.

Formula E began as a high-tech alternative to traditional Formula One racing, but the rise of ever-more powerful electric vehicle technologies, supported by automakers like Nissan, Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche, has made Formula E racing an exciting spectator sport as well as an incubator for the technologies that will land in tomorrow’s electric vehicles. The cars are stylish, green, and lightning fast.

Naturally, they are full of connectors. Since the sport’s inception in 2011, companies like Würth Elektronik, TE Connectivity, TTI, Molex, LEMO, and Mouser have supplied the latest electronics for drivetrain, power generation, safety, sensor, and other vehicle systems.

For the first racing season, 10 teams competed using the same electric racing car, the Spark-Renault SRT 01E. However, after that season, regulations changed to allow teams to build their own the electric motor, inverter, gearbox, and cooling systems. The chassis and battery remain identical across the teams. As a result, Formula E has become a high-thrills way to showcase R&D in the role of electronics in zero-emissions motoring.

The 2018 season is considered the fifth official season, and this year a new, second-generation racer takes to the track. Styled like a superhero vehicle and boasting an additional 70–80 horsepower, the vehicle reaches speeds of 175mph. The new car features an electronic brake-by-wire braking system that replaces hydraulics and a battery that will last the whole race, minimizing pit stops.

TTI, Mouser, and Molex have joined forces to sponsor the DRAGON team. The DRAGON cars are piloted this year by single-seater ace Jerome D’Ambrosio and three-time FIA WTCC drivers’ champion José María López.

“Formula E cars require the latest sustainable and — most importantly — high-performance components to gain the competitive edge. By teaming up with TTI and Molex to sponsor DRAGON racing, Mouser shows its commitment to keeping engineers up to date with these innovative technologies,” said Todd McAtee, vice president, Americas business development for Mouser Electronics. “The DRAGON team finished strong last year, and we look forward to another great season ahead.”

“All of us at Molex are pleased for the opportunity to again team up with Mouser and TTI in sponsoring this pioneering venture,” said Fred Bell, vice president of global distribution for Molex. “We are thrilled to be involved in the development of the innovative technology behind Formula E.”

Würth Elektronik participates in Formula E as a technology partner of the German Formula E racing team Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. “We see Formula E as a kind of a test lab for components and applications in extreme conditions, and as a platform for gaining and contributing know-how for the development of innovative future technologies,” says Mathias Kalmbach, head of marketing.

TE Connectivity supports the Andretti Formula E racing team. The team’s vehicles contain TE’s connectors, cables, and sensors, and the company’s engineers work closely with the team to develop and test new technologies in the racing environment.

LEMO sponsors the Renault e.dams Formula E team and provides custom connections and cable solutions to the vehicles, and considers the experience an important opportunity to bring new technologies to life. “Given the impact that Formula E has had since its inception, it is a great platform for us to explore new products, materials and cable technology,” said Alexandre Pesci, LEMO CEO.

The season is underway now. Follow the teams as they race in Rome on April 28, continuing on to Paris, Berlin, Zurich, and concluding the season in New York in mid-July. You can visit FANBOOST to award your favorite team an extra boost of power during the race. The three drivers with the most FANBOOST votes are awarded a significant burst of power, which they can deploy in a five-second window during the second half of the race. FANBOOST voting opens six days before the race and is available all the way up to six minutes into the race.

Amy Goetzman
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