What is Formula E?

If you’ve never heard of Formula E, you’ve come to the right place. This exciting new all-electric motorsport is rising in popularity and sooner or later you might need the key facts at your fingertips to impress friends, colleagues or random strangers.

Below is our quick guide to the FIA’s Formula E single-seater electric car race series. We’ve got everything you need to know about the Formula E teams and drivers, details of how the season calendar pans out and technical info on the cars. Also, find out where you can watch Formula E events live on TV or in person with a ticket of your own.

Scroll down the page for everything you need to know about Formula E…   

What is Formula E?

Formula E is a single-seater racing series for fully electric cars, taking place on street tracks in major cities around the globe. Unlike F1, its calendar runs from autumn to summer, and its first season began in Beijing, China, last September.

The championship is approved by motorsport’s world governing body the FIA and is the brainchild of Spanish businessman and former politician Alejandro Agag.

It was initially backed by money from several investment funds and individual entrepreneurs and has partnerships with prominent brands such as Michelin, Renault, BMW, DHL, Visa and electric vehicle charging technology firm Qualcomm. 

Who’s involved?

There are 10 teams entered in the inaugural season of Formula E and nearly all of them have links to existing motorsport outfits or car manufacturers.

Virgin Racing is backed by famous entrepreneur Richard Branson, while Italian ex-F1 racer Jarno Trulli has his own squad. The former Super Aguri F1 team has a presence, as has Chinese EV technology company NEXTEV.

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There’s also a team from Indian car manufacturer Mahindra and an American contingent in the form of Dragon Racing and Andretti Autosport. Long-time Audi partner team Abt is also entered, as is Monaco firm Venturi, whose team has the support of Hollywood actor and environmentalist Leonardo di Caprio.

On the driving front, there are a number of ex-F1 stars involved, including the aforementioned Trulli, Alain Prost’s son Nicolas, Red Bull alumni Sebastien Buemi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Scott Speed, Jaime Alguersuari and Vitantonio Liuzzi, as well as Nelson Piquet Jr, Charles Pic, Jerome d’Ambrosio, Karun Chandhok and Nick Heidfeld. Mexican Salvador Duran, World Endurance Championship racers Stephane Sarrazin, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi, along with rising stars Sam Bird, Antonio Felix da Costa and Daniel Abt complete the grid. 

What are the cars like?

The Spark-Renault Formula E car looks quite similar to a Formula One or GP2 single-seater, but it’s very different under the metal. It has a Dallara carbon-fibre/aluminium chassis and is powered by a McLaren electric motor charging a Williams battery, producing the equivalent of 270bhp. Like a road car, it has relatively narrow treaded tyres suitable for wet or dry weather. 

Due to the cars’ limited range, drivers must manage their power use carefully and make a pit stop halfway through each race to change to a second fully charged car. At the moment, every team must run and identical car, but from next season (2015-16) teams will be allowed to develop their own electric motors. Development of the battery and other elements of the car will be opened up in subsequent seasons, with the aim of cars running a full race without recharging by season five. 

Is it as fast as Formula One?

No – the Formula E cars aren’t as powerful as Formula One cars and run somewhere between the pace of Formula Ford and Formula 3 junior single-seater racers. However, they race on unique city-centre street circuits so direct lap time comparisons with F1 aren’t really possible. Organisers have indicated the cars will be significantly faster in season two.

When and where is the next race?

Formula E has almost completed its inaugural season, with races already having taken place in China, Malaysia, Uruguay, Argentina and the US. The next round is in Monaco on 9 May, followed by visits to Berlin, Germany (23 May) and Moscow, Russia (6 June). The season finale will be in Battersea Park, London, on 27-28 June.

Can I watch it on TV in the UK?

Yes – all Formula E races are shown on ITV4. Qualifying from Monaco is on Saturday 9 May at 11am, with the race following at 2pm.

Have you watched a Formula E race? Tell us what you thought in the comments section below…

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