The possibility of fast-charging pitstops being introduced into Formula E during the 2023 season is officially off the agenda.
The Race revealed earlier this month that the plans for fast charging to be introduced mid-campaign were set to be scrapped and that a strategy for implementing it for some races in the 2023-24 season was now being targeted.
The delay in getting the technology up and running is a legacy of issues relating to a change in battery cell spec that the FIA, Formula E and its key supplier Williams Advanced Engineering had to address early in 2022.
This effectively created a knock-on effect that disrupted the timeline for ensuring there were sufficient components to test and then provide the charging equipment.
WAE also supplies the fast-charging equipment but has been working to first ensure there are sufficient RESS units for teams to use in races. The race pool of batteries has been supplemented with the test and development units meaning that manufacturers had to disrupt and change private testing plans in the first half of the season.
Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle told The Race in Berlin last week that the technology, which will be branded as ‘attack charge’, will be introduced at “some of the races, probably not all” next season.
Reigle also stated that the attack charge would also “inform Gen4” as the details of the tenders for the next generation rules are currently being finalised for circulation in the coming weeks.
Further meetings to agree tender requirements for the new rules set, which is due for the 2026/27 season, took place last Monday morning in Berlin.
“It might be that our fans tell us attack charge, the greatest thing ever and it’s got to be a core component of every Formula E race but that also might not end up being the case,” added Reigle.
“I think the spirit of Formula E is that we evolve and we’re flexible. Right?
“My contention was we should introduce it, because we said we would.
“The original idea was at the beginning of the season; we knew we weren’t going to get there.
“Then we said ‘OK, well, mid-season’ but there was some concern about sporting integrity where you have two sets of rules. I accept that. But I mean, if you look at F1, they have sprint races.
“I’m not saying it’s not a valid concern. But I think the later you get, though, you then get into small sample size issues, which if you’re only going to be able to do it for one race, or two races, or whatever it was, well, then the balance of the championship could come down to that issue. It also comes down to a hundred other instances across the season.”
Porsche has been consistent in its opinion on fast-charging from an early stage, in that it wants to see it but not mid-way through this season.
“It needs to be mature; it needs to be safe, otherwise we shouldn’t bring it,” Porsche vice president of motorsport, Thomas Laudenbach told The Race.
“The risk is too high to do it right in the middle of the season.
“We shouldn’t have an impact on the championship. I’m not in all the details, but if this is the reason behind the decision they want to postpone it to next season then I support it.”
The Race says
The decision to postpone the ‘attack charge’ pitstops was inevitable. From earlier this season, it became clear that the supply of the RESS to teams was not as abundant as hoped and that resources were stretched to ensure that the reliability was maintained after a challenging development period in late 2021 and early 2022.
Additionally, there was also concern about the reliability of the RESS in cars being put through the fast charging and the stress levels it could put upon the cells that have completed at least half a season of racing.
WAE has already advised the FIA that the usable energy be reduced 0.5kWh in Berlin to help protect the RESS. From the 40kWh that was used to start the season, a 1kWh reduction was implemented from the second round onwards in Riyadh, meaning that the majority of races this season were run at 39kWh.
There were also concerns about what the pitstops would mean for the racing in Formula E, which has mostly been good so far this season.
Simulations have been conducted by the FIA and manufacturers and it is believed that having pitstops to run in conjunction with the attack modes would make for overly complex racing. A complete pitstop would likely amount to 55-60 seconds, meaning that some cars would be lapped in an early stoppage window.
Teams would only be able to recharge one car at a time, so in the second half of the season they would be essentially forced to prioritise cars.
Talking to The Race about the situation, Reigle agreed that bringing in the pitstop plan now would confuse the race picture for this season.
“If you’re trying to retrofit, you’re already in a bit of a situation where you’re trying to say, ‘OK, well, how do we make this exciting?’ How do we make this compelling?” he said.
“I think we’ll get there; it’s going to end up being a really interesting strategic element of the race.
“We won’t do it this year and I don’t think if you polled 1000 Formula E fans, they’re not going to say, ‘what was deficient about season nine was the lack of fast charging.’”
Reigle is broadly correct here, but the fact remains that the Gen3 project has been faced with at times intolerable challenge and disruption. The fact that the racing product has mostly been unaffected is viewed as somewhat of a miracle in the paddock.
What it will all mean for the Gen4 era, for which plans are being formalised right now, remains to be seen.
The likelihood seems that fast-charging will be used in some but not all events and could be used just in qualifying initially.
But significant changes to the coordination and development phase are at the forefront of the decisions which are being partly overseen by recent Formula E sporting and technical advisor, and former head of Audi Sport, Dieter Gass.