Jonathan Miller

What the Formula E ‘catastrophe’ teaches us about electric cars

  • From Spectator Life
Image: Getty

I didn’t make it down to Valencia, Spain, for the weekend Formula E electric car grand prix. Long trips are more or less out of the question now in my Kona electric car, since Hyundai crippled the range of the battery pack to stop the car from bursting into flames.

Not that I missed much. On the first day five teams were disqualified for having consumed too much energy, three cars came to a stop on the track, and others limped to the finish as best they could. Formula E superstar Jean-Éric Vergne completed the last lap at an average speed of just under 20 mph. Slower than my horse. On Sunday, the Grande Finale, most of those who had finally qualified ran out of battery charge without finishing. Jean-Éric Vergne even went as far as to blame the long stretches of straight road on the circuit, saying that electric vehicles simply weren’t cut out for this sort of acceleration: ‘I’m not sure that we should have gone to Valencia for racing because it doesn’t look good.’

Organisers nevertheless proclaimed the event a great success.

Formula E is supposed to shine a spotlight on electric motoring as governments everywhere are encouraging motorists to abandon petrol and diesel for the joys of electrons. And this it appears to have done. A spotlight albeit unwittingly revealing. Formula E’s Covid-delayed 2021 season appears thus far to have been a farce from start to finish.

In Saudi Arabia, in Rome and now in Spain, the series, with its incomprehensible rules, and arbitrary and capricious judging, has been marked by one spectacular fail after another. Perhaps pedal cars might do better.

None of this surprises me, as an electric car pioneer. I wrote about my Hyundai Kona electric here ten days ago and more than 600 of you have so far been kind enough to leave comments, many of them enlightening and some startling.

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