Beginning in Beijing on September 13, the FIA Formula E Championship will become the first Grand Prix series in auto racing history contested by fully electric vehicles. At ten street courses in cities around the globe, ten teams will compete against one another from September to June 2015 for the inaugural championship. The series, which has signed broadcast deals with FOX Sports and TV Asahi in Japan, has attracted interest and investment from open-wheel racing names such as Andretti and Penske as well as outsiders like Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The teams will all drive the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, which was officially revealed on Monday at a public demonstration by Brazilian driver Lucas de Grassi at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The single-seat vehicles are projected to accelerate and hit top speeds similar to traditional internal combustion open-wheel racers; the car can accelerate from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds, and is expected to achieve race speeds upwards of 150 mph. Each team will field two cars at each race, and drivers will have to make two mandatory pit stops to swap vehicles.
In September of last year, Qualcomm signed on as an Official Founding Technology Partner of the FIA Formula E Championship to showcase sustainable mobile and electronic vehicle technologies, including wireless vehicle charging, to a global audience.
The benefits from the new racing league have the potential to filter down to consumer electric vehicle technology. “If we can sort of accelerate the technology that’s used,” Formula E spokesman Tom Phillips told National Geographic prior to the Monday demonstration, “it can filter down to the average road car, just like it does in any car from the track to the road.”