Since When Did the FIA Care About Cash?

This past weekend the 2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship kicked off with a race in Beijing.

This past weekend the 2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship kicked off with a race in Beijing. That’s “E” as in “electric.” Yes, electric car racing.

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The FIA is the organization that puts on Formula One races. Formula One and all things associated with it tend to be over-the-top when it comes to monies spent.

Yet the Formula E seems to be quite different.

There will be 10 races in the season. According to the FIA, “All rounds will be one-day events with practice, qualifying and the race taking place in a single day in order to reduce costs and minimize disruption to the host city.”

This is about economy, not excess.

This is a spec series, at least from the standpoint that there is a single car homologated by the FIA. This is described as an approach that ensures “a balance between cost-effectiveness and sustainability.”

The car is a Spark-Renault SRT_1E. It is built by a French company, Spark Racing Technology. The carbon fiber and aluminum monocoque is built by Dallara. The electric powertrain and electronics come from McLaren Electronics Systems. Williams Advanced Engineering provides the batteries, which produce 200 kW, or approximately 270 hp. (During the race, the power is restricted to 150 kW, 202.5 hp. However, there is a “FanBoost,” which is a five-second increase to 180 kW, 243 hp, which is based on fans voting for particular cars.) The five-speed sequential gearbox with fixed ratios “to help reduce costs further” is from Hewland. Tires are from Michelin. And the whole thing is orchestrated by Renault.

To be sure, electric vehicles are about efficiency and economy. (OK, maybe the Nissan LEAF and Kia SOUL EV are and the Tesla Model S not so much.) But this emphasis on frugality is rather surprising.