Formula E’s upcoming ninth season will bring it into a brand-new era of regulations for both the design of the car and the sport. Called Gen3, this era comes with a sharp look for a faster, more powerful, and more efficient racer — but questions about how, exactly, the races will be run have lingered, especially as it pertains to the briefly pitched but never confirmed concept of fast-charging pit stops during the races. Now, among a host of other updates to the racing format, Formula E will be debuting its so-called “Attack Charge” stops the same way Formula 1 rolled out sprint races: slowly, and only for a handful of races a year.
Today, the World Motor Sport Council approved FE’s latest pitches for updated racing regulations, and it’s no secret that all eyes are going to be centered on “Attach Charge.” Right now, there’s no hard date set on when, exactly, those pit stops are coming — but in an exclusive interview with Jalopnik, FE CEO Jamie Reigle compared its debut to that of F1's sprint races.
“Think about Formula 1's sprint races. They phased that in,” Reigle said, referring to the addition of a short race introduced to F1 weekends to set the start grid for Sunday’s race. “They started with three, then they’re moving up to six a year. Think about fast charging and Formula E in the same sort of construct.”
According to Reigle, the development of Gen3 — both the car and its accompanying sporting regulations — has been slower than intended, in part due to the scope of the project but also due to struggles with the supply chain.
“Could we be ready and do fast charging every race from Mexico? Yeah, we could,” Reigle said. “But I think everyone is collectively a little anxious about new car, and that would add more moving parts.”
At the end of the day, Reigle told Jalopnik, fast charging isn’t necessary, but it is a welcome enhancement of the racing spectacle. And because it’s just an enhancement for the competition, it’s not integral to Formula E that it be ready immediately.
So, how will Attack Charge work? It’s pretty simple. During a pre-determined portion of the race, every car will be required to make a 30-second pit stop, during which time the power output of the cars will increase from 300 kW to 350 kW at select points during the remainder of the race. That power will be delivered by a 600 kW booster, and it’ll create a little bit of strategic intrigue.
If you’re noticing that Attack Charge sounds similar to Formula E’s current Attack Mode, you’d be correct. In Attack Mode, drivers earn a short burst of extra power by driving over a certain section of track, which is usually placed well off the racing line. Attack Mode will remain during races where Attack Charge isn’t implemented, and it’ll come with new ways to implement it.
Other big changes for the sporting format include the swap from timed races to laps. Historically, FE races have lasted for 45 minutes plus an additional lap — but that deviates from the tradition set by most open-wheel racing series. Now, each race will last for a certain number of laps, which will be determined at each race depending on the length of the track and the expected lap times of the cars.
If you’ve been following FE, you’ll know that the series introduced something called “added time.” Basically, if there was a prolonged yellow flag or safety car period during the race, the series would extend the race by a few minutes in order to guarantee that fans were rewarded with a decent chunk of racing. That concept will remain but will be renamed “added laps.”
Finally, FE is looking to cultivate new talent, and it’s enforcing that by mandating that each team use at least two Free Practice 1 sessions during the season to run a rookie driver that has never competed in the Championship. The goal is, essentially, to get more drivers behind the wheel and to open up the series as a viable career option for racers around the world.
“One of the things that initially appealed to me about Formula E was we’re part of a zeitgeist,” Reigle told Jalopnik. “Electrification is happening quickly thanks to government regulation, consumer pull in terms of electric, and a greater supply of product. We also exist alongside other forms of motorsport, like Formula 1.
“When we look at Formula E, we say, ‘Okay, how can we harness this quantum leap of technology around electrification and tap that into the racing series and make it interesting for fans?’ And I think we’ve done that with Gen3.”