04 Feb

With a bigger battery, bigger emphasis on aerodynamics and bigger plans to push its sport into the future, today Stelvio Automotive takes a look at the new Spark SRT05e Formula E car for the 2018/19 season.

By Sean Smith

As I have made clear in previous articles, I have been critical of the FIA Formula E Championship. I have explained my thoughts how they’re playing it too conservatively and need to stand out to improve their product if they ever want to expand their influence and momentum in the “electric revolution”.

Well this week the chassis supplier for Formula E showed what they are going to do for their part in the sport’s second step. Spark revealed to the world their SRT05e (no idea what happened to the SRT02/3/4 but never mind, ha only joking it’s in reference to the Season 5 debut) and it certainly is an interesting looking car at the very least.

It’s a major departure from its predecessor; which in essence was a basic Formula 3 type car with some of IndyCar’s Dallara DW12 rear bodywork. The SRT05e is a weird mix between “classic” single seater, Le Mans LMP and Ferrari FXX-K (above) with the small rear corner wings replacing the single beam. My first reaction to it was to question whether it can be called a “Formula” car at all as it’s so different, aesthetically, from all other cars going under that banner.

And that’s very much a good thing!

As an aerodynamicist at University and a concept artist in my own time for the last decade I’m happy to see this kind of inventiveness being shown instead of slow evolution of the same car like in F1. I like how Spark (who are French) have taken aspects from Le Mans racers with WEC-like wheel covers and floor aerodynamics. The SRT05e also has a colossal diffuser (below) which sticks out beyond the back of the car like the current LM-GTs which makes the car better looking and generates significant downforce.

There will be concerns that this aerodynamic increase will be detrimental to the racing. It is well known that higher downforce shortens braking distances.

However, in FE you want longer braking distances in order to charge the battery under re-gen so I actually believe this could be a good thing for racing on track as drivers will have to decide between recharging or fighting for position. They won’t be able to do both and the wrong decision could cost them the race.

Talking about the battery, it’s a new unit from McLaren which is designed to be able to last the whole race, getting rid of the car swaps which have only ever been a problem for teams in the last few years with minimum pit stop times. It’s also a factor which takes away from the racing on track and more importantly doesn’t help the series which wants to convince people to buy electric cars even though their drivers have to swap the whole car over because the battery isn’t good enough.

This new 1 battery and 1 car scenario will improve the show and remove some doubts and it will add to that previous point on having to attack or conserve. It could mean two drivers go flying off out in front early fighting for the lead only to be overtaken at the end by someone like Luca Filippi, (below in the 'current' car) who in IndyCar used to save his car until later in a race and then go up through the field with more power/fuel and better tyres available. It might make the races slightly more dynamic with the differing driving styles and tactics, at least for the first season.

Like IndyCar’s new DW17, Spark have removed the rear tyre guards which could result in more punctures. Certainly with the removal also of the front wing this could cause drivers to be more aggressive knowing they won’t lose half their front downforce if they hit the back of another car.

A small note on those front wheel guards I mentioned earlier. It’s seen often in the Race of Champions that some drivers who come from single seater backgrounds don’t fare well when the front wheels are covered or partly covered. This might not be the case here as FE as a lot of drivers who have GT, DTM or Le Mans Prototype backgrounds so shouldn’t struggle.

Regardless, the car will be almost like nothing any driver has raced before and it is significantly more powerful than the SRT_01E it replaces which could shock some of the current grid. It will take a lot of testing to get used to.

The new Spark SRT05e will be hitting the track during the current Formula E season and will make its race debut in the winter. Its electric technology is still not perfect; batteries are still not the long term future of travel in my opinion but it is a step in the right direction. I just hope the third stage of FE is even more imaginative and for want of a better word, “revolutionary”, but the SRT05e will do for now.

Happy 30th Article.