Upgrade flood planned: Formula E bosses Reigle & Longo give insights into Gen3EVO & Gen4 development
"Progress is unstoppable" - that's the slogan with which the Formula E recently threw a race car out of a plane. Observers:inside the series know that this is quite true. A development cycle lasts four years in the electric series. No sooner has the Gen3 era got underway than planning is already underway behind the scenes for the Gen4 car, which will debut in 2027. In Berlin, 'e-Formel.de' was able to speak with the decision-makers of Formula E and gain some new insights.
Not only the Gen4 concept is currently under discussion. Formula E is also looking at more short- and medium-term issues together with the FIA, manufacturers and teams. For example, with the introduction of the long-announced fast-charging pit stops, which won't come until next season. This was to be discussed at a meeting on April 27 - as well as the key data on Gen3EVO.
This is a kind of facelift at the halfway point of the Gen3 cycle. Already with the Gen1 vehicle there had been a new front end after the first two years. With the Gen2EVO, even larger adjustments were planned, but ultimately the upgrade fell victim to the Corona pandemic. Gen3EVO, on the other hand, is a realistic goal and is expected to arrive at the start of the 2024/25 season.
Strategic LED deployment already in use in Monaco?
So currently run more or less three development strands in parallel: short-term adjustments, which already include the introduced features emergency brake and rearview mirror. Also of note here is fast-charging technology and the strategic use of LEDs on the Gen3 car.
"All the teams and manufacturers are testing it right now", Formula E co-founder Alberto Longo confirmed to us in a media roundtable. "The system had some interference with the car battery (which supposedly led to Pascal Wehrlein's serious accident in Hyderabad). Therefore, we currently still have all the LEDs on permanently. But we are working on it to introduce it as soon as possible. Probably Monaco will be the first race."
Hand injuries from steering remain an issue
Another ongoing issue is the extremely sluggish steering of the Gen3 car. In the first six rounds of the season, several drivers have already been injured in rear-end collisions - some more easily, some more seriously. Robin Frijns and Sebastien Buemi both broke their hands. So there are calls in the paddock to adjust the car's steering to minimize the risk of injury to the drivers.
Longo, however, sees no immediate safety risk and explains why a short-term adjustment won't work: "We really have to go into great detail about why this (the accidents) happens. Once we know the cause, we can find solutions." However, a mechanical adjustment to the steering system "certainly won't happen before season 11, i.e. at the evolution stage of the car", says Longo. Means: this and next season, the drivers still have to make do with the current steering and should avoid rear-end collisions at all costs.
Formula E likes "slipstream battles"
Much is also currently being discussed about the strong slipstream effect of the Gen3 car. Is racing "on the string of pearls" with 362 overtaking maneuvers in Berlin alone good motorsport, or not? Opinions are divided on this question in the paddock. "If you ask me personally, I love this racing, I really do!", says Longo, but he also knows that "there are definitely different opinions about it."
In contrast to most drivers, Formula E as a promoter has a clear point of view and is happy about the spectacle on the track - especially with regard to the many satisfied spectators who do not come from "classic" motorsports.
Will the Gen3EVO body be more aerodynamic to reduce the slipstream effect? "Probably not", Longo laughs. "After all, it makes for good racing, and we always have to keep the fans in mind. Maybe we should even strengthen it - in fact, why not?"
First new tire compound, then slicks?
Another big topic of conversation this season is the hard Hankook tires. While they are very durable, their low grip limits the performance of the powerful Gen3 car. "They are already working on what the next tire will look like", Longo confirmed that there will be a new rubber compound in the foreseeable future. "If we make a few more changes here and there, I'm sure we'll be able to go three to five seconds faster."
Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle, however, contends, "The briefing for Hankook will certainly be not: We need a car that is easier to drive. The question is rather how much more grip we want to give the new tire. That's the area of tension." Longo says, "there are a lot of voices for slicks, but also a lot against", and plays the ball back to Reigle: "The drivers all want more grip, of course. But if you ask the promoter...", the Canadian smirks.
For Formula E, the focus is therefore also on entertaining the fans when it comes to tires. But there is also another important core value of the series: "As long as we maintain a maximum of two sets of tires per weekend, I don't see any problem with driving with slicks in the future. We have to stay true to our yes sustainability values and will never go to more than two sets. If we had one set of slicks and then maybe another set of 'monsoon tires' or something like that, why not?", asks Longo.
Slick tires, however, would "certainly not" come in the Gen3 era anymore. "But that also doesn't mean we won't introduce another type of tire for the Gen3EVO. Not a slick, but a different tire", Longo emphasizes. Reigle also says: "I think we should do that. The only question is what we change exactly. The most important thing is that the teams get more time to test before Gen3EVO and Gen4 (than before the introduction of the Gen3 car)", he takes seriously the criticism of recent months from the manufacturers.
All-wheel drive should come in Gen4 era at the latest
Reigle, however, classifies another development area as even more important: "The main focus is on front-wheel drive. Currently, it's only there for recuperation. We're looking at the option of using the front engine as a drive as well." In plain language, that means all-wheel drive. Not permanently, but rather partially. "For example, at the start and in attack mode", Reigle explains. "The driver would not only have 50 kW more energy, but also even more grip and traction in the curves. That should lead to even more overtaking maneuvers."
"We as organizers are actively promoting the use of all-wheel drive. I think it will massively improve the car", Longo clarifies. "But there would be implications for each individual manufacturer, of course. Cost is just one of them. We don't want to invoke any reliability problems as a result. This is a hot discussion. The decision has yet to be made. But ultimately it's up to the FIA, the teams and the manufacturers."
"The use of the front engine is also related to tires", Reigle explained. "I don't think that as a formula series we will have four-wheel drive and slicks and traction control at the same time. Because then you and I could also do that job. The car would then be very easy to drive." For him, the strategic question in comparison with an internal combustion car is: "Where can we really lead? In acceleration, of course." And this can only be brought to the roads with all-wheel drive.
Gen4 strategy: increased performance & longer races
In principle, Formula E boss Reigle said he wants the Gen4 vehicle to focus very much on another leap in performance. "There will be more power, certainly all-wheel drive - if we don't already introduce it in Gen3. We need to challenge the drivers, because that's what the fans want to see. And then again, it's good for the manufacturers."
Also, Reigle recognizes that the current Gen3 vehicle has too much drag. Not only does that hurt battery range and thus race length, but it also increases the slipstream effect at the same time. "The car should have more aerodynamic efficiency, in my view", Reigle says.
"Currently we can't do a longer race yet - we're still held back (by technology). In Gen4, I really want more. I think we could definitely increase to an hour or maybe 55 minutes." Nothing has been decided yet regarding Gen4, he said, "but pretty soon". "Roughly, (chassis manufacturer) Spark needs to know in the summer - two, three months from now - what the Gen4 car will be. So we have to decide very soon."
22 races per season, support series to come
After the failed attempt of the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy, Formula E would also like to see a support series again one day. But Longo says: "We are in no hurry. Currently, we want to focus on Formula E. We will do it, but not yet in the short term. It won't happen next year - maybe the year after or the year after that. We are looking at different options, but we need to find the right partner that will bring us added value."
Chief Championship Officer Longo also wants to further inflate Formula E's race calendar: "The goal is to go up to 18 races by the end of season 12. In Gen4, it will be even more: we want to expand the calendar to 22 races." In its current 2023 season, Formula E will hold 16 rounds.
When we asked if there were plans to return to Paris, the Spaniard replied, "We need a slightly different track for the new Gen3 car, even though the locations at 'Les Invalides' and near the Eiffel Tower were fantastic. So we're looking at different potential locations in Paris, but also the possibility of extending the existing track." A Paris return, however, also won't happen in the short term yet, he said.
If all the planned development ideas are implemented in this way, Formula E fans can look forward to exciting years ahead. One thing already seems certain: The electric series will be significantly faster, which should also further improve the quality of racing.