Over eight seasons and two generations of Formula E it’s gone from a groundbreaking upstart series to an established world championship featuring some of the biggest manufacturers in the world – and the next era is just around the corner.
In January, the 2023 Mexico E-Prix will kick off the faster, more powerful Gen3 age of Formula E but little is known about the apart from the headline stats of top speed, power and energy regeneration.
So how fast are they in a straight line? How much faster do they go in attack mode? How does it compare to F1 and other motorsport series, and how does it compare to previous generations of Formula E cars?
How fast are Formula E cars?
Formula E‘s promised its Gen3 cars will produce 350KW/h of power, and keep accelerating all the way to 320kph – nearly 200mph.
That’s nearly as fast as a Formula 2 car, and faster than Formula 3, DTM, WRC and V8 Supercars.
Previously, the Gen2 cars could reach 280kph – 174mph. That was from 250kW of power, but that full amount wasn’t available for most of the race thanks to attack mode.
This is set to continue in some form through Gen3 – which could also include pitstops – but in Gen2, drivers were limited to 220kW and had to drive through zones off the racing line to unlock the full amount.
It was all available in qualifying though, so drivers still got to unleash the car’s full power on track.
Formula E vs Formula 1
Monte Carlo provides the only direct comparison between the series, as the 2022 Monaco E-Prix was raced on the same layout as the grand prix in Monte Carlo.
It’s a circuit that plays to Formula E‘s strengths more than F1, but still highlighted the pace deficit between the two.
Charles Leclerc took pole position with a lap of 1:11.376, three-tenths ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz – and in F2, Felipe Drugovich led the way with a time of 1:21:348.
A month earlier, Mitch Evans was the only driver to clock a time under 90 seconds in qualifying for the Monaco E-Prix, managing 1:29.839 to win his qualifying final duel against Pascal Wehrlein by a quarter of a second.
So Formula E is significantly slower than its fellow single-seater world championships, though it’ll be interesting to see how much of that gap they make up with the Gen3 chassis.
Evans‘ time was slower than any F1 pole time in Monte Carlo since they switched to the current layout.
1973 marked the first Monaco Grand Prix resembling its current layout, though not exactly identical, and Jackie Stewart took pole in 1:27.5.
In a straight line, there’s no comparison. The quickest F1 speed trap figure in 2022 was achieved by Nicholas Latifi at the Mexico City Grand Prix, the Canadian recorded a top speed of 356.9kph.
That’s not even the quickest time ever achieved in F1 – that accolade goes to Valtteri Bottas who reached 372.5kph (231.4mph) at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in 2016.
That’s nearly 100kph faster than the Gen2 Formula E cars, and still over 70kph faster than Gen3 is expected to be.
However, the acceleration figures paint Formula E in a more favourable light. Gen2 cars could go from 0-60mph in around 2.8 seconds – similar to F1, MotoGP and IndyCar.
For a visual comparison, Top Gear ran a Formula E vs F1 vs WRC drag race in their 2021 Christmas special.
Lewis Hamilton‘s Mercedes W12 crushed the field over a quarter-mile and the DS Techeetah came in last.
How slow were Formula E cars?
Compared to the first generation of Formula E, the 2023 cars look like spaceships.
Gen1 was a weird crossover, looking mostly like a stretched 2012 F1 car but you can definitely see the aero elements that would define the future look of the championship.
However, there’s still only a matter of seconds in it between the generations. Especially on one-lap pace, some circuits showed no difference between the two.
But on longer tracks with more flat-out running, the difference was more defined. The Rome E-Prix saw the pole time cut by four seconds, and the fastest lap in the race cut by nearly seven.
Marakesh has also seen hot-lap times slashed by seconds, but other circuits that spanned the generations like Paris or Hong Kong saw little change.
Now all that remains to see where Gen3 stacks up with its forebears, and how much faster Formula E can go.
Drivers have praised the new cars in testing but the first time we’ll get a true measure of them will be in January, at the Mexico City E-Prix.