BMW has finally bowed to pressure to enter a car that will compete in the fifth season of the ABB FIA Formula E championship.
The German firm has been associated with the electric powered race series from its debut, supplying various support vehicles and safety cars. We were at BMW’s Welt headquarters in Munich to see the firm reveal its first all electric race car, the BMW i Andretti Motorsport iFE.18.
The EV race series is slowly growing in popularity as it not only showcases the best in electric motors and drivetrains but because it produces zero tailpipe emissions races or ePrix can be run on city street circuits with little environmental impact. All the key premium brands are now either signed up or preparing to join the series. BMW had stalled participation for a number of years despite having an active electric car i division. The German giant had previously stated that a number of elements in the race series would have to be in place for it to commit to entering a race car. The most important being the end to the mid race car swap that was just that, a swap by the driver from the car they started the race in with its exhausted battery to an identical car fully charged. The Gen2 Formula E race car has a number of rules and shared components that can then be enhanced or changed by each car maker in an effort to get a competitive edge.
The iFE.18 features some unique BMW crafted state of the art technologies and materials, many recycled. Some key components have been formed using 3D printing too. Renewable raw materials such as fibres from flax have been used in the manufacture of the CFRP carbon fibre reinforced plastic in place of some carbon fibres. Copper has also been woven into the space age fabric to aid shielding and grounding. Strong steel drive shafts were specially developed for the lightweight machine. Street race cars have to be tough as they often make contact with walls and barriers. A modest amount of technical details were given to the Irish Times but otherwise the Bavarian firm is keeping its cards close to its chest and away from the competition. The 5.2 metre long car is 1.8m wide and just 1.05mm tall. Maximum power is 250kW or 335hp. In race mode maximum power is limited to 200kW/268hp. The sprint from 0-100km/h takes just 2.8 seconds.
The BMW electric racer also serves a greater purpose as a test bed for BMW’s iNext electric autonomous car project. “Formula E is not only an innovative and spectacular race series that has established itself as one of the top race series in the world with a totally new approach to sustainability and events within just a few years,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development and Motorsport. “For BMW, it is also the perfect test lab for production development. The technology transfer between motorsport and series production is intense. Our experience from series production benefits the drivetrain of the race car. At the same time, insights from Formula E flow directly into the development of future series production drivetrains. So, I am looking forward to a great racing season.”