Mercedes-Benz will take on rivals BMW and Audi in Formula E

Mercedes-Benz logo

It may be a relatively new series, but Formula E is already attracting a lot of attention from automakers. Audi and BMW recently announced plans to launch their own teams in the electric-car racing series, and now their biggest rival, Mercedes-Benz, is jumping on the bandwagon, too.

Mercedes-Benz previously discussed joining Formula E, but now it is doing more than talking. The German luxury automaker will join Formula E for the 2019-2020 season. It will also exit the German DTM race series in 2018 to devote resources to Formula E. Mercedes believes Formula E is more relevant than DTM, which features more traditional race cars loosely based on production models.

Formula E will help Mercedes market its new “EQ” sub-brand for electric cars. Mercedes hopes to launch ten electric models by 2025, with the first likely being an SUV based on the Generation EQ concept from the 2016 Paris Motor Show. More electric cars will help Mercedes meet stricter emissions standards, and compete with Tesla.

In racing, the old adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” still applies, or at least, automakers like Mercedes hope it does. Mercedes believes racing in Formula E will make the electric cars in its showrooms seem more exciting.

“Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our attractive battery-powered vehicles, as well as giving an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motor sport and marketing,” Dr. Jens Thiemer, Mercedes vice president of marketing, said in a statement.

But aside from the three-pointed star logo, Mercedes’ Formula E cars will be very similar to all of the others. To keep costs down, Formula E requires all teams to use the same chassis and battery pack. Teams are allowed to design their own powertrains, which series organizers hope will encourage technical developments in that area.

While Mercedes plans to exit the DTM series in order to shift resources to Formula E, it will remain in Formula One, which it has dominated for the past three seasons. When F1 switched to hybrid powertrains, Mercedes was simply able to build a better one than its rivals. But in Formula E, rival teams will have a head start by the time Mercedes arrives in 2019. That might make it harder for the company to continue its winning ways.