What does a Gen3 Formula E car feel like to drive?
The new cars are touted as being more powerful and faster, and here’s what that means
Gone are the days when a Formula E driver would do a comical, Benny Hill-esque mid-race car swap, leaping out of one prototype into another desperately hoping not to end up in a viral video having accidentally tripped over.
No, these are the days when a Formula E driver has 470bhp and more than 200mph at their disposal, along with two electric motors, herculean levels of regenerative braking and… well, sketchy levels of grip, all packaged up inside a cool-looking shell.
And as battery and motor technology advances, these shells are only set to get faster and cooler. Formula E’s entire premise is close-quarter battle in city centres and narrow lanes, so what do one of these 200mph electric go-karts feel like to drive?
“You have to reset your mind about driving the car, regarding energy management,” Nissan Formula E racer Norman Nato told TopGear.com, somewhat sagely. Norman’s been here before in Formula E – with the Gen2 cars – and has also got a long history in ICE racing, including second at Le Mans. So he’s seen it all before.
His teammate Sacha Fenestraz on the other hand, is a Formula E rookie, and explains it more simply. “The car feels fast, slippery! Honestly, it’s really powerful. The step between the Gen2 and Gen3 car in terms of speed is quite amazing.
“When you’re going at really high speed, you’re kind of fighting the car. In fact you’re constantly fighting the car because there’s a lot to do. Communication with your engineer, taking care of the dash displays, playing with your steering wheel to adapt all your settings… after a good day of Formula E, the first thing you want to do is go for a burger and then to bed.”
This feeling of mental exhaustion is only compounded by the car’s handling characteristics. “It’s a cool car to drive because it’s not planted, not glued to the floor. If you watch an onboard video, you’ll notice you never see the steering wheel straight. You’re just constantly fighting it. It’s powerful, quick, relatively light and there isn’t a lot of grip.”
Add this to the fact you’re surrounded mostly by walls and rival drivers all very closely matched, and it makes for an entertaining watch. “The good thing about Formula E is that we’re all really close in the races, really until the last lap, you don’t know who’s going to win,” Fenestraz added.
We know who definitely won't win - the viral videomaker hoping for a mid-race hit.
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