Chinese motor racing team DS Techeetah entered Formula E in 2016 and has since become a leading challenger throughout each season in the up-and-coming electric racing series.
Following a fantastic last season, which the team are building on this year, and a real drive in terms of popularity in Formula E, I got the chance to speak with Techeetah Team Principal, Mark Preston.
As you can expect, Preston is very supportive of Formula E, highlighting the importance of the innovative racing series and its effect on the consumer market further down the line.
“Any sport has to keep rejuvenating itself and motorsports is no different,” he says. “Formula E and the FIA have continued to innovate with ideas to keep the sport interesting such as ‘Attack Mode’ and continuing to modify the rules to make sure that energy management continues to be a source of competition. The willingness of the organisers and the teams to accept new racing concepts keeps the sport at the forefront of innovation in racing and makes sure that we have an interesting and entertaining sporting spectacle for the fans.”
Today, Formula E is well out of its infancy and has made its mark on the world stage, racing in countries such as New York, Chile, Saudi Arabia and China, but it continues to develop itself through new ideas that are revolutionary to motorsport.
Preston believes that the series continues to push boundaries, which helps the sport grow its influence on the rapidly-evolving consumer EV market. This includes extending the range of each race car, the performance and even ground-breaking fast-charging systems.
“In the first phase of Formula E it was all about introducing electric racing to the world; phase two was about solving the range issue, going from two cars to one per driver,” he adds. “You can see from the recent tender from the FIA that the next stages will relate to 4WD regeneration of energy and fast charging. This means that FE’s developments continue in parallel to the consumer market.”
What puts Formula E at an advantage is its progressive nature. A great example of this is the latest talk about the option of creating ‘fast charge pitstops’, which would shake up the series in all the right ways.
“Fast charging is part of the FIA’s recent tender documentation and follows consumer trends in the marketplace,” says Preston. “We will have to see what is finally technically possible once the FIA’s tender process is finished to understand what is finally proposed.”
Preston is also the Founder of StreetDrone, who we spoke to around this time last year, which makes him extremely well-positioned as a leader in the future transport sector, beyond the motorsport scene. I wanted to understand his outlook for the wider industry as we move forward.
“The whole sector is following global megatrends of connected, autonomous, shared and electric,” he tells me. “As the world urbanises, this puts more pressure on the mega cities of the world which will define over 60% of the worlds GDP. Therefore we have to move towards more shared, electric, autonomous and connected vehicles in order to fit more capacity onto the existing infrastructure.”
And he’s right. We cannot just throw more infrastructure at the problem. This means we need to unitise the megatrends mentioned by Preston to improve mass transit, last mile solutions and electrification.
But we must also not underestimate the influence and potential of Formula E, which will drive consumer demand for electric vehicles and the development of technologies for the consumer market.
“Micro mobility and the possibilities coming from the explosion of small electric powered vehicles are driving some interesting experimentation in cities. EV technology only gets better with more developments coming from Formula E. Finally, autonomous services will provide last mile transportation for those which cannot currently get access to public transport such as disabled and aged travellers.”