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Spark’s sleek new electric race car proves Formula E isn’t a flash in the pan

Why it matters to you

Formula E's plans for a new electric race car mean the series will actually stick around for the long haul.

Now that the Formula E electric-car race series has proven to be more than just a novel experiment, organizers are looking toward the future.

The FIA, which runs not just Formula E but also Formula One and the World Endurance Championship, among other series, just named Spark Racing Technologies as the supplier of the next generation of Formula E race cars. Spark supplies the current SRT_01e cars used by all teams since Formula E’s inception.

The next-generation car will enter competition in Formula E’s fifth season, which kicks off in 2018. Standardizing the car design is meant to put a cap on costs, and to focus development efforts on powertrains, which teams have much greater leeway to customize. This reinforces the narrative of Formula E as a test bed for future electric-car technology, something organizers believe is very important from a marketing perspective.

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The new car will be called the SRT05e, and will look similar to the concept car pictured here. Some of the visual elements may change, but what won’t change is a requirement that the SRT05e complete an entire race on one charge. Current Formula E cars don’t have the range to run an entire race, so drivers swap cars during a pit stop. To help stretch range, the SRT05e will accommodate a larger battery pack with a capacity of 54 kilowatt-hours, compared to 28kWh for current-gen cars.

One challenge facing Spark engineers is how to deal with the anticipated 10 percent weight increase of the larger pack. Another is driver safety: The SRT05e concept features a windshield, a nod toward efforts to provide greater head protection to drivers of open-topped race cars. The concept car also features a much sleeker design than the current Formula E racer, with fully enclosed wheels and no large rear spoiler.

Formula E is steadily gaining traction. Manufacturers currently participating in the series include Renault, Audi, Jaguar, Mahindra, and Citroën’s DS sub-brand, as well as startups NextEV and Faraday Future. BMW and Mercedes-Benz have taken options to enter the series at a future date, while Audi has said it will expand its presence significantly.