There are just a few days left until the presentation of the highly anticipated Gen3, which will be unveiled to the world in the setting of the Principality of Monaco on the occasion of the Monte Carlo E-Prix. The third-generation car will guarantee a significant leap in performance compared to the current single-seaters, with a reduction in weight and an increase in power that should lead to breaking through the 300 km / h barrier. To all this is added the introduction of fast charging, which will thus mark the return of pit stops during the race. Although the Gen3 has yet to make its debut on the track, in a World Championship still animated by the Gen2, manufacturers and organizers have already begun to discuss the characteristics of the fourth generation car. Among the main topics on the table there is also the possible liberalization of the development of batteries, currently subject to the standard mono-supply of McLaren Applied Technologies, a charge that from next season will pass to Williams Andvanced Engineering.
According to Florian ModlingerTeam Principal of Porsche, the openness to the development of accumulators could compensate for the progressive leveling of the differences between the various powertrains in terms of efficiency: “We have to look at how Formula E has evolved in the past. Powertrain is now being built by manufacturers, who have made huge leaps forward in materials, technologies and more in recent years. Now we are all converging towards a certain limit, especially in terms of efficiency, and much of the potential that was there in the past has already been extracted. If we look at the car as a whole, there is further scope to see a differentiation between manufacturers, with potential particularly in battery-related areas. The question then is where it makes sense to invest your money. Based on the spending ceiling, it is necessary to understand which area has the greatest growth margins. Furthermore, there is currently a debate on charging tools: what will the approach be in the future? Since the efficiency of the powertrain has reached a convergence between the various houses and much of the potential has already been extracted, the focus will be on other areas. All this will have to be discussed “.
Thomas Laudenbach, vice president of Porsche Motorsport, confirms the interest of the Stuttgart house in the development of batteries, as long as it is able to contain the consequent increase in costs: “We have discussed it many times. We would like to see an opening on battery development, but not completely, as this would lead to a cost explosion. However, it is clear that when it comes to electric vehicles, the battery is one of the main components. If some areas were opened for development, that would certainly be something we would support, but at the same time only if subject to cost control. An engineer would always say, ‘Give me the money and let’s see what we can do.’ However, we must make sure that the budget always remains at a level acceptable to everyone, but that at the same time there is technological freedom. We have to find a compromise, but the battery is certainly an area that we would like to see open ”. Nissan is also on the same line of thinking, as stated a FormulaPassion.it from Tommaso Volpeglobal director of motorsport of the Japanese house: “We are talking about it for the fourth generation. To tell the truth, for the Gen4 we are talking about everything, because we start from a blank sheet and can do everything. As for battery development, it honestly depends on how you do it. If the development of the battery were left completely free, there would be the risk of greatly increasing the budget for the development of the cars., without necessarily having a return to research and development on the product side. We could go looking for technologies and a power density for batteries that would not necessarily be usable in the industrial sector for reasons of cost and would consume a lot of budget. The components on which we work today instead, therefore the motor, inverter and gearbox, are not far from what we do in series production “.
An acceptable compromise could therefore be openness to the development of accessory battery components, using standard cells: “Yes, but at that point it could be argued why the battery isn’t left entirely standard. It is an element of discussion on the table, but it is not as obvious as it might seem, that is, accessing the development of the battery would have more benefits for road research “, Volpe comments. A similar solution was adopted for the FIA Electric GT, an embryonic championship whose first season has yet to be played. The format for the electric GT provides for batteries based on cells of the same type for all participants, but assembled freely by the individual manufacturers according to the most conventional architectures. Another large area of potential development of accumulators is the cooling system, or rather the air conditioning system, since in certain contexts it is necessary to supply heat to the battery to keep the cells in the optimal thermal efficiency window. The battery conditioning system currently in use in the championship is standard for all teams and is based on direct cooling, cutting-edge technology that sees the cells directly immersed in the coolant, thus being able to exchange heat across the maximum possible surface. Christopher DobrowolskiAssociate Technology Manager of Shell E-Fluids, Nissan’s partner, commented on this: “The technology behind it [in Formula E] it is something that we have also developed individually when it comes to the fluids for cooling the battery pack cells. In this regard, we have a partnership with Chrysler Electric, in which we are demonstrating and developing together with them battery thermal management systems based on our fluids for direct cell coolingso as to encourage manufacturers and make this technology more ready for the mass market ”. Dobrowolski then added that, should the development of the cooling system be liberalized, Shell would have no particular problems implementing its own version on the Formula E car.
Overall, a picture emerges in which the various parties are interested in expanding the areas of competence of manufacturers with the advent of the Gen4. However, it remains to be seen whether the opening to development will also include batteries and, if so, to what extent, whether as a whole or only with regard to certain aspects, such as the cooling system. Much will also depend on the success of the Gen3 and on which direction the development will take in the first years of the next technical cycle. Further convergence of performance between different powertrains could push Formula E to venture into other fields of research.
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