When the red lights go out, and the electric cars fly out of their starting positions, a quiet revolution is turning its first corner. The first Formula E season is coming to a conclusion this June, and as with any new venture, it is time for reflection. This could be the newest test-bed for innovation.

Formula E

Since the first engine fired up, motor sport has been getting faster. Much of the innovation that went into creating the speed machines has made its way into the car industry. Improvements in tyre technology, steel disc brakes, suspension, gearboxes, aerodynamics and engine performance has contributed to safer and better cars for everyone.

With speed came danger. The technological leaps also claimed human lives. Even with improved safety measures installed in the cars, legendary drivers like Ayrton Senna lost their lives, while others ended careers with injuries and scars. As a result, FIA limited innovation by enforcing standardisation of the cars. This meant less dramatic crashes. FIA took measures to make F1 a driver’s sport, featuring the drivers as brands to grow its appeal. Since then, F1s ability to push the boundaries has been on cruise control.

Until now. Formula E is pushing the new frontier of racing. Driving engineers to achieve the kind of magical feats that will dramatically improve the performance of electric cars and propel them into the mainstream.

Formula E is pushing the new frontier of racing, driving engineers to achieve the kind of magical feats that will dramatically improve the performance of electric cars...

The innovation isn’t limited to the driving technology. Fan boost is a clever new idea to involve every fan, perfect for our social media age. Fans can vote for the driver they like the most to receive an extra speed boost during the race.

The cars are standardised and there are new rules to the game. Drivers can only use 10 tyres per race, to promote sustainability, adding an extra dimension to their driving challenge. And because of limited battery life, all drivers have to change cars once, which won’t be necessary for too long, considering the pace of tech progress. In fact, Formula E could become a testbed for battery technology.

Starting out with electric cars, Elon Musk recently introduced the company’s new Powerwall battery units; designed to power your home. Consumers made more than 38,000 orders, and the Powerwall will be sold out until mid 2016. 

Mercedes-Benz introduced a battery of their own to compete with both Tesla’s car and home batteries. And competition could heat up even more if the rumours of Apple entering the car industry turn out to be true.

One material that might extend battery life is graphene. The wonder material has shown promising results in re-charging batteries faster than traditional methods. The application of graphene could help to further the competition both on the Formula E track and in the electric car market. 

If it lives up to its early promise, the silent, electric revolution will power innovation for years to come.

Sign up to our newsletter. Culture, trends, forecasting, insights: Get a progressive point of view on the way we live.

Sign up