Formula E lets teams choose their own powertrains

Virgin Racing Formula E
Formula E is moving ahead with previously-announced plans to let individual teams choose the powertrains for their electric cars, which should add some excitement to the second season of this emission-free racing series.

For its inaugural season, which wrapped up in London back in June, Formula E required all teams to use identical Spark-Renault SRT_01e electric cars, which kept the racing close and put a cap on costs, but made things a little less interesting.

For season two, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is homologating eight manufacturers to provide powertrains to the 10 teams. “Powertrain” is defined here as the motor, inverter, gearbox, and associated cooling systems. Everything else is off limits.

That means all of the cars will still probably look the same, but will perform differently, owing to the powertrain changes. The FIA says that keeping aerodynamics identical across the board will help keep costs down; complex aerodynamics has been one of the factors behind the spiraling costs in the sanctioning body’s flagship series, Formula One.

These changes thus mean that Formula E could turn out to be less like Formula One, and more like IndyCar, where all teams use the same Dallara chassis, but with engines and some specific aero bits supplied by one of two manufacturers: Chevrolet or Honda.

Even that scenario could be good for Formula E, though. It introduces another variable, and more unpredictability can make for better racing. Having multiple powertrains creates unknown performance differences between cars and drivers, and not knowing what will happen is what makes things exciting.

Allowing manufacturers to build their own powertrains could also potentially increase Formula E’s role as a laboratory for technical innovation. The desire to win can be a powerful motivator for engineers, and racing is one of the best ways to torture-test a new component or system.

Carmakers are already involved in Formula E to some extent. In addition to building the chassis, Renault runs its own team in the series, as does Indian firm Mahindra, while Audi backs the ABT Schaeffler team. The ability to supply unique powertrains may attract other companies as well.

So far, eight of the 10 teams are expected to use their own powertrains. Dragon Racing and Venturi will share a powertrain developed by the French company, and Team Aguri will continue with the same powertrain used last year.

The first race of the new Formula E season takes place in Beijing October 17, and the action will reach the U.S. with a race in Long Beach, California later in the season. The new cars will be unveiled August 10.


Tesla cuts workforce by 7 percent, ends referral program to trim costs

Tesla has announced plans to trim its workforce by seven percent, and it will end the referral program that rewards customers who help it sell cars. These measures are ways to cut costs and boost profits.

Need a new tablet? The best iPad deals for January 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.

OpenTable points can now be used to whittle down cost of a hotel stay

Have some OpenTable Dining Points built up? Now those points can also be used to make your own hotel discounts. OpenTable is teaming up with Kayak to use points as discounts on participating hotels.

Ford’s Mustang-inspired electric crossover will spawn a Lincoln luxury version

Lincoln will get its own version of parent Ford's first mass-market, long-range electric vehicle. While Ford's version will have styling inspired by the Mustang, Lincoln will take a more traditional approach.

Ford has a plan to future-proof the hot-selling F-150 pickup truck

Worried about the threat of rising gas prices, Ford will add the F-150 to its growing portfolio of electrified vehicles. It is currently developing a hybrid F-150, and it will release an electric version of the next-generation truck.
Home Theater

Spotify adds simplified Car View mode for Android users

What was once just a test is now a reality: Spotify is rolling out a new, simplified in-car user interface for all Android users called Car View, which automatically engages when the app detects a car Bluetooth connection.

Driving Daimler’s 40-ton eCascadia big rig isn’t just fun, it’s electrifying

Daimler Trucks brought its all-electric eCascadia semi-truck to the 2019 CES, and invited us to take the wheel. What does it feel like to drive one? Simply electrifying, of course.

Boutique carmaker Karma Automotive, legendary design firm Pininfarina team up

Karma Automotive is partnering with legendary Italian design firm Pininfarina on future luxury cars. The first product of that partnership will appear later this year, Karma said, without offering other details.

Sibling rivalry: 2019 BMW Z4 takes on the 2020 Toyota Supra

BMW and Toyota forged an unlikely partnership when they set out to build a sports car platform together. Here, we examine the similarities and differences between the 2019 Z4 and the 2020 Supra.

Worried about commuting in winter weather? Nissan has the answer

The Nissan Altima midsize sedan is now available with all-wheel drive. To advertise that fact, Nissan's Canadian division slapped some tank-like tracks on an Altima to create a one-off show car.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.

Lyft and Aptiv’s self-driving car program has come a long way (but not far enough)

Many companies talk about self-driving cars, but Lyft and Aptiv are already using a fleet of them to transport paying customers in Las Vegas. Hop in for a close look at the tech of autonomous cars, and the challenges they face.

Michigan OKs digital license plates with Rplate’s connected car platform

The state of Michigan approved the use of digital license plates on motor vehicles registered in the state. Reviver Auto, the manufacturer of the Rplate connected car platform, worked with Michigan's Department of State to pass the bill.

This Chevy Silverado pickup truck is made from more than 300,000 Lego bricks

To promote The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Lego and Chevrolet teamed up on a life-size replica of the automaker's Silverado pickup truck made from more than 300,000 plastic bricks.