Here’s Why Formula 1 Can’t Go Electric Yet, Explained with Simple Science


Keeping energy consumption under control, then, inescapably requires weight be kept to a minimum, which forces the battery pack down to a size where completing a Grand Prix on one charge becomes impossible. Mid-race energy replenishment then becomes the focus, though none of the available options mesh well with F1 as we know it today. Fast-charging can’t take place quickly enough to occur during a race, battery hot-swaps are unthinkable for a series that doesn’t permit hot-pit refueling (never mind rushed fumbling with high-voltage circuitry), and car swaps would put F1 squarely in the footsteps of Formula E, which graduated past the practice as soon as technology allowed.

Now, let’s hang a quick U-turn and get pedantic: None of these obstacles aside from the political one can really stop F1 from going electric. They’ll just prevent F1 as we think of it today—the technological pinnacle of motorsport with its (almost) unrivaled speeds over 189.5-mile Grands Prix—from doing so. 

There’s every possibility that F1 could surprise the world, and compromise on either car speeds or race format, though neither possibility looks likely. Abandoning its lap record-smashing downforce divas of today could produce some sort of strange efficiency playground akin to a big-budget Formula Sun which, while not unappealing by any means, isn’t what V10-worshipping traditionalists would watch.

As a mass entertainment product, F1 only stands to gain by appealing to that demographic, whose attention might be held by electric cars that could keep up with today’s championship-leading Mercedes. But because of the energy storage limitations we’ve spoken of here, they’d have to compete over a shorter, more frantic sprint race format. Such seems to be the end goal of Formula E, and again, F1 doesn’t want to follow in the upstart’s footsteps.

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