Practically 5 years after all-electric racing sequence Method E made an exhilarating debut, the ebook is about to shut on its fifth season. Crucially, this was additionally the primary season with Method E’s game-changing second-generation electrical racecar, which is quicker, lasts longer, and will assist propel the sequence into extra official motorsport territory.
In April, I drove one on a racetrack.
I truly drove the sequence’s first-generation automobile again in 2017, however I’ve had the urge to attempt the brand new one ever since it was introduced in 2018. Not solely does it look completely bonkers, however it’s a major improve in nearly each approach. The outdated automobile had a max energy output of 200kW or about 268 horsepower. The second-generation automobile (or “Gen2 automobile,” as everybody within the sport calls it) tops out at 250kW or 335 horsepower. The outdated automobile’s prime velocity was 150 miles per hour; the brand new automobile peaks at 174 mph and might go from zero to 60 mph in below three seconds. Contemplating the sequence hadn’t run a single race on this present day 5 years in the past, that’s fairly good.
One factor that shocked me after I bought behind the wheel of Method E’s new all-electric racecar in April is how easy it’s to drive. There aren’t any gears like there have been within the authentic automobile. Like its predecessor, it makes use of treaded tires as a substitute of racing slicks so I didn’t have to fret about warming them as much as precisely the proper temperature like I’d in, say, a Method One automobile. Even the halo — the flip-flop-looking security machine that now sits over the cockpit of the automobile — principally disappeared in my imaginative and prescient as soon as I used to be seated.
Probably the most stunning factor, although, was that Method E’s Gen2 automobile felt simpler to drive than the first-generation one — and never simply because I used to be driving it in a power-limited mode. The throttle is smoother. The brakes are way more forgiving and progressive than those on the outdated automobile (which had been very straightforward to lock up), because of a brand new brake-by-wire design. The steering is extra fluid and exact. Total, the automobile felt prefer it rattled much less — one thing that’s very straightforward to note given the shortage of engine noise.
I’m not saying the Gen2 automobile is definitely straightforward to drive. It’s not: 335 horsepower may not sound like rather a lot, however step on the throttle too early when exiting a nook or with an excessive amount of oomph, and the electrical motor and its instantaneous torque will ship the again wheels (and doubtless the automobile) spinning earlier than you already know it. Time the braking poorly after eclipsing 100 miles per hour on a straightaway, and it doesn’t actually matter how forgiving the brake pedal is. Circuit de Calafat, the monitor I drove it on, is tight and technical, and multiple different individual there that day spun or despatched the automobile into the gravel.
What’s extra, after only a few laps within the Gen2 automobile, which weighs 900 kilograms (1,984 kilos) and doesn’t have energy steering, my arms had been absolutely cooked. To not point out I didn’t should take care of all the opposite stuff that comes with truly competing on this automobile, like doing 12-hour days in a simulator to organize for a race or managing the battery stage whereas combating for place inches away from the imposing partitions of a avenue circuit.
Nonetheless, I bought snug sufficient with the Gen2 automobile that it made the first-generation one really feel like a prototype. Within the outdated automobile, I felt like I used to be considerably near its limits. Within the new one, I sensed how rather more it may deal with.
I additionally wasn’t purely counting on my reminiscence, right here; Mahindra Racing, the staff that allow me drive the brand new automobile, had me take a couple of laps in one in every of their first-generation vehicles in Spain as nicely. I used to be working with a contemporary comparability, and the variations had been obtrusive. Even after 4 seasons of growth, the unique automobile felt just like the beta model of Method E, the one which helped the sequence work out all of the kinks.
That’s largely true! The primary-generation automobile was identified to sometimes overheat. It used a battery that might solely final round 25 minutes, which required drivers to pit midway by way of every race to modify vehicles. It value about half as a lot (some €400,000, or about $445,000) because the Gen2 automobile, which has a price ticket of just a little over €800,000 (or about $900,000).
Greater than something, the Gen2’s composure signaled to me that it’s a automobile that may be pushed to increased limits in the proper fingers. The specs could be just a little extra spectacular on paper, however the refinements I seen throughout my few laps within the cockpit in the end outline a automobile that may deal with extra aggressive driving. Drivers aren’t fairly a lot on the mercy of this new automobile as they had been within the outdated one the place, for instance, they needed to manually change the steadiness between the standard brakes and the electrical motor’s regenerative braking every lap utilizing a dial on the steering wheel.
The genius of Method E throughout its first few seasons is that the sequence organizers didn’t struggle the perceived shortcomings of the first-generation automobile, they embraced them. They used these limitations to the sequence’s benefit. The vehicles don’t make a lot noise? Nice. Host cities will love that. The batteries don’t final lengthy? Great, the youthful viewers we’re concentrating on has a brief consideration span anyway. The speeds aren’t blinding? Improbable. Smaller avenue circuits will make prime velocity irrelevant, create extra braking alternatives to ship power again into the batteries, they usually’ll additionally (once more) be extra palatable for host cities since they take up much less house.
Now, with a extra strong, succesful, and albeit thrilling automobile on the middle of the sequence — to not point out the buy-in of a few of the world’s largest automakers like Audi, BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche — Method E’s organizers are constructing on that basis. They’ve fewer limitations to work with, they usually discover themselves in a uncommon place on the earth of motorsports the place they’ll now attempt even bolder concepts, ones that might set the sequence aside and, in the event that they get sufficient of them proper, assist outline what the way forward for racing appears like. No strain.