GEN3 from drawing board to the track

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GEN3 from drawing board to the track

Creating an all-electric race car that is designed and optimised specifically for wheel-to-wheel street racing but also setting the new standard for the world's first net zero carbon race car in the world's first net zero sport is no mean feat. This task was handed to Alessandra Ciliberti, FIA Formula E Technical Manager and GEN3 project lead. Here's the story from drawing board to GEN4 and beyond.

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Alessandra on her role and the goals laid out for the GEN3

I oversee technical matters for Formula E – looking after the current generation of car as well as developing the future one. With GEN3, I was entrusted with developing the car from a technical perspective and managing the whole process from defining the brief and requirements to launching the tender for suppliers and following up on development.

GEN3 is a step change in terms of performance and efficiency compared to its predecessor. There are a lot of new aspects to the car compared to GEN2 – increased power and performances in discharge and regen – and we added new features like a front powertrain. It’s the first single seater with a dual axel design in regen and we also have the capability to fast charge at 600kW. Everything has promoting technology transfer from the race track to the road in mind.

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Sustainability is also key to the car’s design, as a pillar of Formula E. Suppliers have to identify all measures to improve its sustainability credentials and reduce their emissions and resource consumption, through a life cycle assessment process, from the very beginning. In addition, all unavoidable emissions are offset as part of Formula E’s net zero commitment – it is a net zero race car by design.

Practically, we’ve used sustainable materials for bodywork parts, such as linen or recycled carbon fibre for some of the bodywork that has no structural function. We have also asked our suppliers to comply with top level international standards to reduce their environmental impact and mandated FIA Three Star Accreditation before the start of Season 9.

The design and impact on racing

The car is optimised for wheel-to-wheel street racing – it’s smaller and lighter with a shorter wheelbase and narrower track compared to GEN2. The weight is also 60kg less than GEN2 [around the weight of a driver] so it feels more agile to the drivers.

It's visually disruptive and that fits the brief we’ve worked to. We were asked by Formula E to design something striking that goes beyond conventions in all areas, with function foremost. It’s really different to what we’re used to in motorsport. All the while, the design serves purpose with the surfaces shaped to create an efficient airflow and to attain technical and weight targets.

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The open-wheel concept is key, too. We moved from close wheels to open-wheels for a strong single-seater identity.

Tech transfer, from race-to-road

GEN3 is the pinnacle of electric technologies for motorsport applications and provide a laboratory for future mobility - we see that across the car with the improvements we’ve made in this generational leap. The front powertrain kit and state-of-the-art battery cells that are capable of discharging faster with a higher capacity than the current battery but with a reduced footprint. It’s far smaller and lighter than the road-going equivalents and there’s potential for that technology to transfer and for manufacturers to apply it to their consumer vehicles.

There’s a whole host of things that are relevant to manufacturers and we’re allowing them all to develop their own technology to drive the car – promoting competition with a wide scope for development.

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Working with Spark, Hankook and Williams Advanced Engineering

Suppliers include Spark Racing Technology which is a founding partner of Formula E and has developed the chassis and technologies from the beginning of Formula E in 2014. The battery comes from Williams Advanced Engineering, which has had very challenging targets to meet in terms of output and performance. The tyres come from Hankook, which is a newcomer to Formula E for GEN3.

We’re very satisfied with the package we have and that’s thanks to the strong collaboration between all parties. The work was set underway with the tenders in 2019 and with work beginning in 2020 with an intensive development phase tackling the complexities of the technical challenge and developing such a car with lofty requirements. We faced challenges but working together has made it all possible and we’ll continue to do so as we enter the delivery phase of the cars to teams and manufacturers as they provide the next round of feedback on reliability and performance.

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A once in a lifetime opportunity...

For me personally, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage with so many stakeholders at different levels and improve my technical expertise. It’s been so rewarding for me and I’m so thankful to the people that have entrusted me with it.

On GEN3 and beyond

GEN3 brings a host of innovations, but we’re still committed to going a step beyond. We’re already thinking of the evolution and talking with teams and stakeholders about we can bring through the four-year cycle of GEN3. We’re investigating using the front powertrain kit in traction as well as regen to allow for four-wheel drive-in specific scenarios and then looking even further to GEN4 we have to ensure Formula E remains at the forefront as the laboratory for future mobility. We will work through and understand the challenges the manufacturers face from a technical perspective to make sure it remains the perfect platform for them.