Formula E

Formula E: Development for emergency braking system accelerated, but launch not until Saudi Arabia

Tobias Wirtz

Tobias Wirtz

Contrary to previously known plans, Formula E will now be able to use a new emergency braking system as early as the end of January after all. Especially after the accident of Sebastien Buemi in Valencia, the automobile world federation FIA has accelerated the development, so that the brake could already be used at the second race of the season. This is reported by the colleagues of 'The Race'. For the start of the season in Mexico remains nevertheless a queasy feeling.

Besides the crash of Buemi, which occurred on 16. December on the Circuit Ricardo Tormo at high speed off the track and crashed head-on into the track barrier, at least four other accidents are said to have occurred during private test drives in 2023. Jaguar, Mahindra and Porsche are all said to have had incidents, and Theo Pourchaire had an accident in the spring during testing by the chassis manufacturer Spark. Although the drivers remained largely unharmed, safety concerns grew among all involved.

For several weeks now, therefore, work has been underway on an emergency braking system that would intervene in the event of battery or powertrain failure. Because Formula E's Gen3 bolides no longer have hydraulic brakes on the rear axle due to an ambitious technical roadmap, but instead slow down there exclusively via recuperation, the vehicle is unable to provide the braking power the driver is accustomed to and expects in the event of an electric motor or energy storage failure.

This is expected to change soon: instead of in March, as initially intended, the system could be available in just over two weeks at the Diriyya E-Prix. Technically, the whole thing is solved via a solenoid valve that is opened when the brake on the front axle is applied, it is said. This is connected to the rear axle and, in the event that recuperation fails, ensures that the driver can stop the car more quickly. The system is said to be electronically monitored at the same time to prevent misuse in all cases other than an emergency.

"Despite global supply chain challenges, we are doing our best to implement the secondary braking system from (the race in) Diriyya," a statement from the FIA is quoted as saying.

Sette Camara: "As a driver, you don't like not having brakes"

Drivers also reportedly pressured the FIA and Formula E to speed up the introduction of the system. Discussions between drivers and race series officials had already taken place in Valencia, as 'e-Formel.de' witnessed on site in December.

"The cars are very robust and can take a beating," reported Nio 333 driver Sergio Sette Camara. "But as a driver, you don't like not having rear brakes. I understand that people want to push new technologies. Maybe in a few years cars won't have mechanical brakes, maybe that's part of the future."

"It's always about the balance between innovation, pushing boundaries and safety," the Brazilian continued. "If the argument for abandonment is really just weight reduction, is it really worth it? Why don't we just install the brakes, wait out this 4-year cycle, and then see if we ever need to activate the brakes?"

The FIA has obviously recognized the urgency of the issue. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: the 22 drivers will still have to contest the season opener next Saturday in Mexico City without the emergency braking system. We all hope they won't need it.

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