The Qualcomm New York City ePrix was host to history in the making – a new era not only in motorsports, but also in high-performance electric mobility with the announcement of BMW i Motorsports.
- Bob Devol
For a new kind of motorsport like Formula E, Red Hook, Brooklyn, is a fitting venue – a neighborhood of transformation and re-invention, of today meeting tomorrow. Once New York’s busiest port, Red Hook remains an important port area as it transforms into a mixed-use neighborhood of restored homes, boutique shops, factories and warehouses.
The future feels at home here. Most Brooklyn residents are eager early adopters of new technology and they came to the New York City ePrix by the thousands – many attending their first-ever auto race – to cheer on the Formula E racers. The event was also a hit with hard-core racing enthusiasts who flew in to see the event. More than 18,000 attended during the two racing days, packing the grandstands and viewing areas.
The 1.21-mile, 10-turn Formula E street circuit twists through the roads inside the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal with a stunning view of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan.
“Absolutely exciting. It’s beautiful here,” said Jens Marquardt, BMW Motorsport Director. “It’s a really great place to be and where e-mobility really belongs, in the big cities like New York, Chicago, etc.”
It certainly appeared to suit New York well as the city government and Formula E series organizers are planning to make the ePrix an annual fixture on the city’s sporting calendar.
“BMW is leading the innovation in electric car technology. I couldn’t pick a more prestigious or historic manufacturer to work with in Formula E.”
- Michael Andretti, CEO of Andretti Autosport
More history in Brooklyn: BMW announces i Motorsports.
At the beginning of the New York Formula E race weekend BMW announced the first racing brand dedicated to alternative power systems: BMW i Motorsport. Its first project is for Formula E, partnering with Andretti Autosport.
BMW’s Formula E effort includes development of a racing-specific Formula E drive motor, vehicle control module, power inverter, controls software, transmission and more. BMW i Performance road car engineers are teaming up with BMW M Motorsports engineers in this effort. “On the motorsports side, to be right on top of that with the i brand and the M brand all combined in motorsport is just fantastic,” said Marquardt.
The Andretti Autosport BMW Formula E electric racing motor has been tested on BMW engineering’s dynamometers for the past several months.
BMW i Performance electric drivetrain engineers have been embedded with the Andretti Autosport team throughout the 2017 Formula E racing season, gathering critical data to apply in the development of BMW’s electric racing power systems focusing on an all-out effort to win the 2018 Formula E championship.
What’s notable here is that these are road cars, rather than dedicated racing, engineers. “It’s the same BMW colleagues who do the electric motors for the i3 and i8,” said Marquardt. And they’re working flat out to have this new kind of racing technology ready in time for 2018. “We’re looking forward to having our first test car running soon,” added Marquardt.
Racing on Sunday, sustainability on Monday.
With BMW competing against six other vehicle manufacturers by the 2019 racing season, Formula E is poised to ignite what could be the most meaningful transfer of advanced technology from racetracks to roads – ever.
Marquardt agrees: “We’ve seen the first generations of electric motors being run in (road) cars, BMW is developing electric systems for 2020 and onwards and everything we’re doing (in racing) has a direct effect on the programs for the production cars. Anything we learn production-wise or materials-wise is going to go straight away into our road cars, because it’s done by the same people – and that’s the important part.”
“We are excited to expand our partnership with BMW i and serve as BMW’s official Formula E works team beginning in season five,” said Michael Andretti, CEO of Andretti Autosport. “BMW is leading the innovation in electric car technology. I couldn’t pick a more prestigious or historic manufacturer to work with in Formula E.”
The performance of electric drive already has thousands of BMW drivers enthusiastic. “Everyone who has been driving an i3 or an i8 or one of our plug-in hybrid models has experienced the excitement when you put the pedal down,” said Marquardt. “There is no noise, but there is a huge push in your back when it accelerates. That’s what makes you a fan of this kind of mobility. We’re really proud that we’re doing something that represents the future.”