Formula E – A pioneering Racing Series.
The BMW Group has been involved in Formula E since the beginning. In this event our Formula E experts explained what makes Formula E such a unique and pioneering platform and how the technological innovation for the races is a key driver for bringing electric mobility to our streets. Nicki Shields, Formula E presenter, Journalist and Broadcaster hosted the event and asked our experts just the right questions. In the first panel Jamie Reigle, CEO of Formula E, Stefan Ponikva, Vice President Brand Experience at BMW, Maximilian Günther, Formula E driver for BMW i Andretti Motorsport BMW and Rupert Buchsteiner, Vice President at Manga International explored with us why Formula E is the most innovative racing series in the world.
“Formula E is more than racing, it is a platform that inspires people to take action.” Jamie Reigle, CEO of Formula E
Formula E was intentionally created as a sport with a core purpose to address climate change. This makes it completely unique, as most other sports develop organically over time, e.g. football or hockey. The goal of Formula E was to create something that goes beyond entertainment and has a social purpose. Formula E is about future generations. It’s about how to make the planet a better place in the long term. “Formula E is unique. It started as a sport with a core purpose of addressing the challenges around climate change. With the use of electric vehicles we demonstrate how to achieve cleaner cities of the future,” said Jamie Reigle, CEO of Formula E.
“We were so proud of that white paper approach. Formula E really managed to get into a new era of motorsport. And this pioneering spirit convinced us to join right from the beginning,” said Stefan Ponikva. As the races are located directly in the cities the vision of urban electric mobility directly reaches regular car costumers. Formula E is the proof of concept, that electric mobility is even more sheer driving pleasure, BMW’s core brand promise which will still hold in the future.
Formula E is a magical combination of an Innovation Platform, Entertainment and Education
When it comes to the audience, Formula E is not limited to motorsport enthusiasts, but consists of people who are open minded for new technologies, for new ways of approaching racing and the future in general. “When it comes to the future of mobility Formula E is the right platform to talk about it,” knows Stefan Ponikva. And also Rupert Buchsteiner from Magna sees Formula E as a platform to meet the right people e.g. city governors, young talents or innovative activists. “There is no part of Magna in the racing cars, what we use is the surrounding of the Formula E, for example as a recruiting platform.”
“The beauty of racing is the combination of sport and technical innovation.” Jamie Reigel
In season 5 BMW partnered with Andretti Motorsport, an own team and other engaged partners like Magna. Right now the team is second in the championship. Maximilian Günther, one of the team drivers, explained that “racing is a very different thing when you have to manage energy and make a lot of strategic decisions in the car together with your team. It’s so complex, and as a driver you really need to use all your skills and find new skills all the time.” The modern technology of the car makes it sensitive to drive on its very limit. And that is not all. As the drivers are mostly driving on street circuits, there are a lot of road bumps, roads are narrow, and they have only one lab to qualify. Another unique element in Formula E is the special form of interaction between the fans and the drivers. “With the fan boost we integrate the audience to influence the race directly,” explains Stefan Ponikva.
Formula 1 Boss Chase Kerry once stated: “Formula E is not a threat. It is largely just a social cause and […] a street party.” Confronted with this statement Max Günther made clear that Formula E is a serious world championship with a great future ahead: “It’s modern, it’s unpredictable, it’s exciting to watch, there are many overtaking manoeuvres and it’s all happening on tight street circuits. From a driver’s point of view, it’s so competitive and there a many world-class drivers involved. Also, there is no other championship around the world with as many car manufacturers involved as Formula E.”
Another unique element of Formula E is its adaptivity. Formula E has managed to keep the level of competition up even in times of COVID-19 pandemic by introducing the Race at Home Challenge, a series of esports events broadcasted as virtual tournament via social media and television partners. “Esports was new to all of us, but it was about adapting quickly to new circumstances,” said Max Günther, Formula E driver and participants of the Race at Home Challenge.
The link between technology, progress and innovation and how that reaches into the sport is unique to Formula E.
The product is always innovating. “We always work together with our partners on how we can innovate the technology,” so Reigle. But what does that mean from the sporting perspective? We will definitely see rapid charging in the future. But will we have a rapid charging pit stop? Maybe. The goal here is to develop the sport in a way that is most interesting for the fans. However, Jamie Reigle gives us a glimpse at what to expect from the next gen of vehicles: “There will be batteries which are over 100kg lighter, more power output and better energy management.”
“Motorsport has two elements: Driving technology forward and creating emotion.” Rudi Dittrich, BMW
In part two of our event, we dove deeper into the technological innovation. BMW Group experts Rudolf Dittrich, General Manager BMW Motorsport Vehicle Development and Andreas Buchner, Head of Development High Voltage electric Machine and eDrive Unit discussed why Formula E is an innovation lab for e-mobility.
BMW and Formula E have very similar principals, so Andreas Buchner: “It’s all about efficiency, about saving energy and becoming more sustainable.” So it made sense to partner up and use the shared interest to drive e-mobility forward. “As developers, we are always trying to contribute to the current racing series, being competitive, push limits further, whilst also looking at how this benefits the development of the automotive industry” so Rudi Dittrich.
At BMW the development and the production are happening in the same place, allowing rapid innovation. With the implementation in Formula E, it’s possible to test early technologies under rough conditions. “Formula E really is a technology lab,” says Buchner. The technology then transfers from the race to the road. “It’s the same people who develop and produce the race and the road compartments and in the same production shop,” says Dittrich.
Formula E is a really good early playground for the technology
“The software for dynamic and efficiency control is already used partly in the i3. If you are currently driving an i3, you have also a small part of Formula E inside,” says Buchner. Moreover, BMW is also testing and implementing new materials. Some of them find now use in the new 5th generation of powertrains that was just launched with the iX3. “The 5th generation of electric powertrains comes without any rare earth materials, so that’s a very big step forward to even more sustainability,” so Dittrich. And new sustainable materials are not only used in the power train, also the surface materials of the race cars contains more natural fibres. And that points us to the promise of BMW: “We look at sustainability from a 360 degree perspective,” Rudi Dittrich.
If you’re interested in what other topics our experts discussed, watch the recording of the whole event here.
To kick off the event, we will listen to a short inspirational talk about Formula E’s basic principles and visions in context to the further development of electric vehicles.
After setting the scene we will open our stage to an expert panel, discussing Formula E’s role in the development of environmentalism in motorsports. What distinguishes Formula E from other racing series (target group, location, fan boost, etc.)? What is so innovative about Formula E? Are efficiency and energy management key factors for success? Why are so many well-known people from the racing industry involved in this series? What does it feel like to drive a Formula E vehicle? How does Formula E adapt to the current situation (COVID-19)?
Nicki is a television presenter, live events host and YouTuber and is familiarly known as the face of BBC’s FIA Formula E Championship, the electric street racing series. She is also the anchor for Supercharged on CNN, a technology and motor show, ITV’s Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival programmes and has been seen across broadcast channels including ITV, BBC, Channel 5 and Sky Sports. Nicki is a Science Communicator with a Biological Sciences Degree and specialises in sports and automotive, science, technology and the environment.
Reigle enjoyed an early career in finance and private equity at J.P. Morgan and The Carlyle Group, afterwhich he attended Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and obtained a master's degree in Business Administration.
In 2007, Reigle joined English football club Manchester United as a senior executive, spending the next decade in roles of increasing responsibility.
The Canadian later made the move back to North America in 2017 to become Executive Vice President, Business Operations at the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL, driving corporate and commercial operations - including the ticketing, hospitality, partnerships, media, marketing, retail, strategy and finance functions. Reigle joins Formula E to lead a young and accomplished executive line-up at the company’s headquarters in London. Working in close collaboration with Alejandro Agag as Chairman, together they will scale the business to meet the demands and fulfil the potential of the fastest-growing series in motorsport.
In his function at BMW, Stefan is responsible for experiential as well as sponsor- and partnership marketing. He dedicated himself to electromobility in his early career and was a Formula E fan from the very beginning. The first contracts for the collaboration as official vehicle partner of Formula E were personally promoted by him. BMWi was born electric and so was Formula E – a perfect match and BMW is still proud to be a part.
Maximilian Günther is contesting his first season for BMW i Andretti Motorsport in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. The 22-year-old, born and bred in the Bavarian Allgäu region where he still lives today, got off to a great start with one win and a second place in the first five races. Günther is the youngest ever Formula E winner. In 2018/19, he contested ten Formula E races for Geox Dragon, finished in fifth place twice and was involved in the Super Pole competition for the fastest six drivers in qualifying two times. Günther is no stranger to BMW Motorsport having begun his career in single-seater racing in 2011, in the Formula BMW Talent Cup – BMW’s youth development programme at that time – and finishing second. He followed that with various levels of single-seater racing.
In his function as Vice President at Magna International, a mobility tech company, Rupert currently leads the development of a future sensor system which is essential for autonomous driving. Rupert has significant experience within the motorsports sector, which he gained through positions for example as race engineer and team manager at Indy Racing League. He has spent a dedicated career in the automotive industry and in addition to Magna also spent several years as part of program manager of Ferrari.
During the second part we will explore the technological aspects of Formula E. How did Formula become the key player in the development of our future mobility? How does the serial production of cars benefit from the rapid developments within Formula E? What are tangible innovations from the racing series for serial production?
In the following panel, our BMW Group experts will discuss the Formula E’s potential in becoming an innovation lab for e-mobility.
Andreas Buchner joined the BMW Group in 1999. He started his career at Formula 1 Team with the development of drive train and in different positions. In 2009 he changed to series drive train development and was working in different positions in architecture for electrified vehicles.
From 2011 to 2014 he build up fuel cell drivetrain development at BMW Group. Since 2014 he is responsible for electric machine and electric drive unit development at BMW series, which includes the electric drive development for formula E as well.