Indian electric car maker Mahindra Reva is in the process of developing customised cars to compete in Formula E racing competition soon. Mahindra Reva is the first OEM from India to participate in Formula E racing, the first ever racing competition for environment friendly cars.
The company, which has a dedicated division for motorsport christened ‘Mahindra Racing’, will utilise the expertise that gained in Formula E to implement and improve its road cars. Mahindra Reva is, along with Audi and Renault, one of the three OEMs in Formula E, in which 10 teams across the world are participating.
Two rounds in the 2014-15 championship are over, the first being in Beijing, China on September 13 and the second in Putrajaya, Malaysia on November 22. The third race is to be held on Punta del Este, Uruguay, on December 13. The nine-round championship will end in the UK on June 27, 2015. At present, Mahindra Racing is sixth with 18 points after two races.
Indian racer Karun Chandhok, along with Brazilian Bruno Senna, comprises the Mahindra Racing team in the Formula E championship. According to Chandhok, "Formula E is a different sports arena – it is not competing with F1, GP2 or F3 or anything else. It wants to establish itself as a parallel and vertical sport," he told a section of media persons on the sidelines of an interaction organised by Mahindra-Reva recently in Bangalore.
The former Caterham F1 driver, who races for Mahindra Racing’s Formula E team, says Formula E cannot be compared with any other series. The objective of Formula E is to transfer race car technology to road cars. Chandhok adds, "It is a double whammy. They are focusing on marketing and engineering point of view and want to transfer technology from the racing track to the road."
Chandhok says Formula E is a huge mental challenge unlike Formula 1 where speed and physical endurance are major challenges.
According to Chetan Maini, CEO of Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles, the gap is much less between Formula E and regular road cars, because the technologies are matured on the same time. He said, “For example, the batteries we use in Formula E are similar to what we use in the Mahindra e2O and even other features like telematics technology. I think the high-performance powertrain and the battery in a Formula E car will also come in road cars much quicker.”
Maini is of the opinion that his team has done pretty well in the championship opening Beijing race, its first, where Karun Chandhok finished fifth. He said, “I think it is a very good start. To be in the top five in the very first race is a very good start. We have a good crew, a good team and we will try to retain our position within the top five in the series.”
Regarding the future of e-racing, he said, “Formula E racing happens in a new environment. It is a new culture and people love the environment and technology. Formula E is a new format involving a larger community. It attracts people as it has been conducted on road where more people can gather.”
Speaking about Formula E cars, Maini said this year all the cars were made by a common entity and given to the teams by the organizer Formula Electric Holding and the vehicles were later fine-tuned. From 2015, the organizers will allow OEMs to design their own cars and Mahindra Reva is awaiting the final rules.
“We have a few people in Bangalore who look at simulation and race strategy and are also helping understand future constructive requirements where we will actually design the vehicle. So in future we will have a much more involved role where we will work on the powertrain and battery management while today the role has been mostly related to simulation, strategy and car setting,” he adds.
Maini says competition in e-racing can drive EV technology in road cars. “I would say that battery technology, motor technology and telematics technology which are already in road cars can be pushed further.”
In fact, Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director, Mahindra Group, had earlier said: "We strongly believe that Formula E can provide an excellent global showcase for our electric vehicle technology."
As an EV maker, Mahindra Reva has global aspirations and foresees potential business in new markets in Europe. Formula E will help build its brand. . . silently.