The Electrifying World of Formula E

DS Virgin Racing drivers Sam Bird and Alex Lynn in action during last year's Formula E New York City E-Prix. Photo by Shivraj Gohil, courtesy of DS Virgin Racing.

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About This Episode

The future of racing is here. On this episode of Playing with Science, hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly investigate the electrifying world of Formula E. Formula E is an auto racing series that strictly uses electric-powered cars. Also, every race runs through the world’s most breathtaking cityscapes. Since its inception in 2014, Formula E has been growing rapidly and next season we will see new cars, new batteries, and new teams. To get a view from the driver’s seat, Chuck and Gary caught up with DS Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird. Sam tells us what it’s like behind the wheel of a Formula E car and how it’s different from racing Formula 1 and 2 cars. You’ll learn about the astonishing amount of engine efficiency resulting in instantaneous throttle response. Find out how using the simulator prepares Sam and his team for each race. Then, we hear from Paul McNamara, Technical Director at Williams Advanced Engineering, the company that makes all the batteries for every team. Explore the basic breakdown of how the battery works, how much kilowatt power is being produced, and how teams must create advantages when building the car given that each team has the same battery power. Currently, during races the drivers switch into a second car halfway through the race. You’ll hear Paul’s thoughts on how next season’s upgrades will feature single car races and how recharging during a race could add extra drama. We also discuss how Formula E technology can translate to the public car market. Lastly, adventure journalist Jim Clash stops by to ponder whether or not Formula E will continue to gain popularity in the United States. Jim describes what it’s like to go 140 mph and above, and he updates us on his latest adventure. All that, plus, our other guests give their opinions on the future of Formula E. 

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