While Formula E is just nine seasons old, the on-track technology is ever-evolving and has undergone revolutionary changes in that short spell. We've come a long way since we made our debut back in 2014, and we’re fresh off the back of the debut of the revolutionary GEN3 - we never stand still.
Season 9 saw Formula E's third great leap and the intro to the GEN3 era, with the all-new GEN3 car previewed and launched at the 2022 Monaco E-Prix and hitting the track for the first time in Valencia, at testing, that same year.
The 2022/23 campaign saw the culmination of eight years of world class electric racing and everything learned by Formula E's teams and engineers - it's the pinnacle and intersection of high performance, efficiency and sustainability.
The GEN3 is lighter, smaller, faster and more sustainable than what came before, and incorporates a number of cutting-edge features set to inspire and inform major automotive manufacturers into their next moves in the consumer car market while showing there need not be compromise in an electric racing car.
It's also the most efficient race car on the planet, with almost 50% of the energy it expends recaptured for use through the rear and a new front powertrain, for up to 600kW total energy regeneration.
So, that's not only a leap in power of almost 1.5x - bringing about a 0-100kmh sprint of around two seconds - but a near-doubling of regen capacity.
Every aspect of GEN3 production was rethought redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up – in a process led by FIA Formula E Technical Manager Alessandra Ciliberti - ensuring the car embodies the benchmark for high-performance, sustainable racing without compromise, with all suppliers required to complete a life-cycle assessment of their products.
On-track, GEN3 produced the goods. We saw the championship’s fastest average lap time and the highest speed topped in its inaugural campaign. There were more race leaders and more overtakes than in any other season to-date, with most encounters featuring triple-digit total passes.
Nissan's Sacha Fenestraz became the fastest man in Formula E with laps in Cape Town and Portland - both debut entries on the calendar. Season 9 champion, Andretti’s Jake Dennis, then took the honour of fastest over a lap with his Duels time in Oregon. That same weekend, we also saw Mitch Evans set the series' highest ever top speed.
Dennis won the first race of the GEN3 era in Mexico City before going on to earn his first FIA World Championship title in the penultimate race of the season on home soil in London, with three other drivers still in contention going into the final double-header weekend.
These high watermarks were set even as teams are only beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible with the all-new equipment they have at hand. To flesh out that point, we didn't see GEN2 peak in performance until the very last season it hit the track - some four years after its introduction. If anybody is capable of extracting more out of the most advanced electric race car on the planet, it’s a paddock full of Formula E engineers.
That same weekend, we saw a preview of what might be heading our way before we reach GEN3. The revolutionary GENBETA electric race car smashed the indoor land speed world record by more than 50 km/h reaching a top speed of 218.71km/h (135.9mph) inside a building in London.
We got to see the first use of the front powertrain in traction - offering a tantalising glimpse of what's to come next with four-wheel drive and an extra 50kW of power, via GENBETA's Guinness World Record-smashing effort in London.
The GENBETA car featured a range of modifications to effectively ‘unlock’ the potential of the GEN3 race car:
- Enhanced battery power output of 400kW, up from 350kW in the GEN3, through the activation of the front powertrain kit in traction, delivering all-wheel drive for the first time in a Formula E car. The battery was charged by ABB, the title partner and official charging partner of the Championship
- New, softer iON Race tyre compound allowing faster warm-up and better peak grip, developed by Hankook Tire, official tyre supplier of Formula E
- 3D printed front wing endplates, wheel fins and a wind deflector with circular, more sustainable thermoplastic solutions developed by SABIC, principal partner of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, to optimise aerodynamics for enhanced straight line speed of the GENBETA
- Google Cloud provided generative AI analysis of the drivers’ runs. Using Vertex AI, live
Informed by the boundary-pushing GENBETA and the pioneering GEN3, the next evolution for Formula E is set to be GEN3.5, which will hit the track in Seasons 11 and 12.
Activation of the front powertrain in drive and use of four-wheel drive in certain scenarios, softer compound, ultimately quicker tyres and bodywork/aero tweaks are all on the table as possibilities, with lap times projected to be several seconds faster than is currently possible with GEN3 as it stands.
Beyond that, the GEN4 era will bring the next major leap for the series, ensuring Formula E remains at the bleeding edge of world championship electric motorsport.
"GEN3 brings a host of innovations, but we’re committed to going a step beyond. We’re already thinking of the evolution we can bring through the four-year cycle," said FIA Technical Manager and GEN3 Project Lead Alessandra Ciliberti just after the GEN3 launch in Monaco, 2022.
"We’re investigating using the front powertrain kit in traction as well as regen to allow for four-wheel drive-in specific scenarios and then looking even further to GEN4 we have to ensure Formula E remains at the forefront as the laboratory for future mobility. We will work through and understand the challenges the manufacturers face from a technical perspective to make sure it remains the perfect platform for them."
The tender process completed by Formula E and the FIA took on thorough analysis of all bids submitted, evaluating the technical specifications of each product as well as a host of supporting aspects.
As with GEN3, GEN4’s tender process saw sustainability take centre stage as a key pillar for Formula E. Suppliers were required to identify all of the measures they are taking to optimise their products’ sustainability credentials, reduce their overall emissions and resource consumption through a life cycle assessment process -right from the beginning. In addition, all unavoidable emissions are offset as part of Formula E’s net zero commitment.
GEN4 will be a net zero race car by design like its predecessor but the boundaries of what is possible in this space are to be pushed yet further.
Chassis: Spark Racing Technology will continue to supply the chassis’ to Formula E, as it has done since our inception
Batteries: Podium AT - an Italian company with success across a variety of motorsport projects, will step up to become an FIA World Championship single supplier for the first time
Front powertrain: Marelli – extending the Italian brand’s longstanding working relationship with the FIA
Tyres: Bridgestone – marking the manufacturer’s return to an FIA World Championship for the first time in a decade-and-a-half
Everything we learned ahead of Season 10 at the Valencia test
Season 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will get underway on Saturday, 13 January 2024 followed by races in Diriyah, São Paulo, Tokyo, Shanghai, Rome, Monaco, Berlin and Portland.
The finale of Formula E’s biggest season yet – with a record 17-race calendar - will be a double-header race weekend in London on Saturday, 20 July and Sunday, 21 July 2024.