We recently commented that Formula 1 cars were a test bench for innovations that, with time, were incorporated into everyday cars; we also commented the arrival of Formula E as the successor in terms of innovation in the quest towards a sustainable mobility.
In 2012, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) commissioned Spark Racing Technology (SRT) to design and build the first generation 100% electric-powered vehicles for the all-new Formula E car racing competition starting in 2014.
When the FIA launched a call for tenders for its new Formula E car slated to race in 2018 and 2019, SRT bid again and won. The Spark SRT05e, also known as the Spark Generation 2 — or Gen2 — was born. SRT designed and assembled a new cockpit, chassis, brakes, wheels, suspension and body using many of its own components for the Gen2. The battery was designed by McLaren Applied Technologies and installed in the car by SRT. Each team uses the same baseline vehicle but can then customize it by designing and installing its own powertrain, engine, controller, electronic systems, onboard software and gearbox.
“We are a small team,” says Mélanie Péquet, mechanical engineer at SRT. “We must be agile, responsive and the collaboration must be efficient. For example, if my colleague worked on a specific part and is on our customer’s site for tests, I can take the lead on the 3D model and modify it from the office, test it in a virtual environment, release it, and send it directly to the customer. Traceability enables us to save time.”
Another challenge was the battery. “Each race lasts 45 minutes, but the battery we used four years ago didn’t,” he said. “It discharged before the end of the competition. As a result, each pilot had to use two cars to complete the race, changing cars midway through the competition. Since the first version of our car, huge progress has been made to the components and to the weight of the vehicle. Making it lighter has enabled us to install more batteries that double the car’s autonomy. To find the best configuration and layout, we used the 3DEXPERIENCE platform design application CATIA to rapidly test alternative designs in a digital environment before choosing the best one for physical assembly.”
Théophile Gouzin, CEO at SRT, states: “By using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, we have a reliable and high-performing solution. It has opened many doors for us in terms of new business.”
Gouzin also reflects that: “If we compare the evolution of the electric racing car with the improvements made to Formula 1 (F1) cars in the past five years, there were fewer technological advances in F1 than in the electric car sector,” he said. “But that’s also the objective of a race like Formula E: to develop technologies that can benefit the cars we drive on the road every day.”