jueves, 25 de septiembre de 2014

Beijing Hosts Debut of Formula E as Engines Whir Rather Than Roar





The first carbon free, fully-electric racing championship is held in Beijing. Video Credit 
By Jonah M. Kessel on Publish DateSeptember 13, 2014. Image CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times


BEIJING — The world’s first fully electric motor racing series, featuring battery-powered racecars that can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds, opened here Saturday.

Known as Formula E, this 10-stop international circuit is approved by the International Automobile Federation and aims to inspire developments in electric car technology and attract a new generation of fans.

The inaugural race, the Beijing ePrix, was unexpectedly dramatic. A crash at the last turn of the final lap involving the leading cars allowed the Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi of the Audi Sport ABT team to win.

Nicolas Prost had long been in the lead when his car touched Nick Heidfeld’s. Heidfeld’s vehicle flew end over end and landed upside down in pieces. He emerged unscathed.

The Beijing ePrix took place in Olympic Park, site of the 2008 Olympics. The cars made 25 laps on the 3.44-kilometer course (about two miles), weaving between the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest.

Among the 75,000 people reportedly on site were a large number of local residents who were pleasantly surprised to find an international sporting event to attend as long as they paid the park entrance fee. 
Photo
Lucas Di Grassi of Audi Sport ABT won the first Formula E electric motor race on Saturday at the Olympic Park in Beijing.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

The series was the brainchild of the federation’s president, Jean Todt, and a Spanish businessman, Alejandro Agag, who came up with the idea in 2011.

We expect this championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities,” Agag told the event’s website.

The championship has strong backing — it took $100 million to get the project off the ground — and a number of Formula One veterans like Jarno Trulli strapped into racecars. Sir Richard Branson, the four-time Formula One champion Alain Prost and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio are among the team owners.

Unlike other racing series, Formula E schedules practice rounds, qualifying and races into a single day’s program instead of three, making it less disruptive to the host cities where the street circuits have been built.

To engage spectators, a gimmick called the FanBoost allows fans to vote for their favorite drivers; the top three get a chance to bump their car’s power for two and a half seconds.

We have 1.4 billion people,” said Steven Lu, chief executive of the China Racing team. “If even .0001 percent of them vote, that’d be enough to win.

The fan favorites proved to be di Grassi, Bruno Senna and Katherine Legge, one of two women in the 20-car race.

For the series, Michelin designed an 18-inch all-weather tire intended to last an entire race. Each Formula One car receives 52 tires per race weekend; Formula E cars receive 10.

All drivers drove a version of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, equipped with a battery weighing nearly 800 pounds. It has enough power for 20 to 30 minutes of hard racing, so drivers switched cars midway through, substituting the poetry of Formula One pit stop tire changes for a hop into another vehicle.

Ho-Pin Tung, a Dutch driver of Chinese descent on the China Racing team, said that the best drivers in this series would be those who mastered the ability to manage the battery’s energy.

In race mode, we will be playing around with the power all the time,” he said. “We have six different engine mappings on the steering wheel, which we have to adjust while driving.

The local fans were disappointed by China Racing’s finish, as Tung placed placing 16th and his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. placed eighth. What caught Tung by surprise the first time he drove the SRT_01E was the sound of the wind in his helmet.

It’s always there of course, but normally there’s a screaming loud engine behind you,” he said.

The electric car’s motor emits an 80-decibel whir, about the same as a garbage disposal, compared with Formula One cars that sound like jet engines.

I had no idea electric cars could be so fast,” said Wang Zhigang, 60, a Beijing native who had seen racing only on television. He added, however, that he would not buy one soon.

The government gives subsidies for them,” he said, “but there are just too few charging stations. What would you do if you ran out of battery here?

But China is seeking to put five million electric cars on the road by 2020 in an effort to cut pollution. Indeed, Lu, whose team played a crucial role in bringing the race to Beijing, said that the Chinese government was willing to host because it wanted to promote electric cars.

Speaking of government officials, Lu said: “They said: ‘Wow, this is really new. It’s a golden opportunity. Let’s do that.’

Stops on the Formula E circuit include Miami and Long Beach, Calif. The final race is in London in June.

A few years ago, few believed this series could come to fruition. Standing on a hastily built viewing platform, Lu was optimistic, saying, “It’s real, it’s fast, and it’s the future.

ORIGINAL: NY Times
By BECKY DAVIS
SEPT. 13, 2014

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario