DOES FORMULA E HAVE THE JUICE?
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Apr 3, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
To: James F. Peltz / Los Angeles Times Re: Business Section feature Highway 1: “Formula E has the juice” Da: Saturday, April 2, 2016 Dear Jim: Good to see your Formula E race by-line in the Business Section this a.m. However... (You saw that coming ... right?) I have a personal/fundamental problem with ANY racing series that requires the use of TWO racing cars to complete ONE racing event—and that includes any sort of motive power fueled by any system from wind-up to nuclear. As a showcase for any sort of advancements in electric car technology, this whole exercise seems to me at best to be an abject failure, and at worst, a way to further dramatize and enforce the public’s number one (through 20 at least) concern about electric vehicles: RANGE. A lot of people put a lot of money down on the Tesla Model 3 the other day and, from what I read, their coughing up a grand for the privilege of getting on the list to buy one in a couple of years had a lot to do with a promised 215-mile range. And today we have an highly-publicized event that supposedly will really get the public hot about electric cars in a 41-lap closed-course racing event that will cover exactly 54.12 miles and require TWO (very expensive) full-up, latest e-tech racing cars to cover the distance between Los Angeles and Riverside. My undereducated (only 40 years in the motorsports business so far) is that all of any possible environmental savings or benefits that Formula E supposedly accrues in today’s event would be totally offset by the need to construct, purchase, transport (unlikely by an electrically-powered conveyance) race, and maintain these machines. As I said before, if one really wanted to fan the flames of the buying public’s “range anxiety” I don’t know if I could think of a better way of doing it than this. “Yes, we’re heading over to Riverside this afternoon to visit Aunt Frances ... right ... yes ... right ... you’ll have our second car waiting for us to transfer to in Pomona ... right ... thanks ... Okay.” I saw a TV interview this a.m. that was conducted by a local news anchor who was not of the racing cognoscenti. He was interviewing the FIA spokesperson in a live feed from Long Beach. He referred to the remarkable range reported for the just announced Tesla and then asked (innocently enough) about the racing cars “mileage”. The FIA person looked into the camera sort of angry/stunned ... waited a few beats and then launched into a spiel about how these were very, very powerful racing cars that could attain a top speed of close to 300 kilometers per hour*, and added something that sounded like (sorry ... heavy accent) “... That’s why we need to use two cars for each driver.” The interviewer, bless him, then innocently asked the 64-dollar question, “Why can’t you just do a pit stop and change the battery? FIA Stiff: “Oh ... it weighs 400 kilograms ...” End of interview. Now we know that they are touting electric racing cars each capable of running for only 27.06 miles before using up all the Juice” in an 881-pound battery. The greenest of the green would be hard-pressed to be impressed here. When cars were young and car manufacturers wanted to test and expose them to the public they turned to speed and distance contests ... racing. Yeah, we got the rear view mirror from racing ... but that was a while back. There is always a bubble of excitement and adventure wrapped tightly around any form of motorsports contest. You’re there, it’s exciting, there’s the sounds, the smells, the speed, the color, the danger, the cool people ... But, for the life of me I can’t fathom what we are learning about this technology (except maybe that electric vehicles have severe limitations) here. I stand ready to be enlightened here. Doug Stokes Motorsports fan Duarte, California No matter how gum-dipped one is about electric-powered cars (and I’ve driven and had fun with a couple of them) this ill-formatted show just can’t do the sort of positive work that it may well have set out to do using the current 2 cars for 1 race format. Someone will look beyond all the signs, flags and pretty colors, take notice that the King’s new clothing is transparent ... and the jig will be up. This is not quite the sort deep betrayal that VW has visited upon the entire clean diesel industry, its dealers, and its customers; but, I should think, quite troubling for thoughtful e-vehicle manufacturers nonetheless. *Of course they could not really traverse a full 300 mile distance without using 6.8 different fully-charged cars. Got something to say? Add your Facebook comment here. If you want to read more information about FIA Formula E, go to fiaformulae.com.