Formula E is set for a breakout year after another big manufacturer, BMW, commited to the racing series.
The rapidly growing race series for electric-powered F1-style open-wheel machines has locked in its regulations for three seasons stretching from 2018 to 2021.
Formula E teams currently field two cars per driver in each race, swapping cars mid-way through each event as a crude solution to limited battery life.
That will end when new regulations come into effect for the 2018-2019 season, when teams will use hardware capable of going the distance without a car change.
FIA president Jean Todt says "the cars will be able to run for twice as long while, at the very least, maintaining the same performance level".
"This highlights how motorsport can stimulate and accelerate development of new technologies, which can then be applied to road cars and in this case it has even more of a key role, given that at the moment, electricity is one of the more practical alternatives when it comes to finding new forms of more sustainable mobility in the future," he says.
While teams presently use identical Dallara chassis and Williams battery packs, they can develop their own electric motors that produce around 200kW of power. A new chassis with revised bodywork will join an improved McLaren-sourced battery from 2018.
Eight of the nine approved Formula E manufacturers have close ties to production car brands. Though they may not be household names, the German Abt team is backed by Audi, NextEV NIO makes the world's fastest electric car and French marque Venturi Automobiles builds niche electric vehicles as well as a missile-shaped machine that holds the world land speed record for battery-powered cars.
Clearly, BMW, DS Automobiles, Jaguar and Renault are the official electric racing arms of brands from Germany, France and the UK.
The only new constructor without direct ties to an automotive brand is Penske Autosport, a team with ties to the most successful racing outfit in the US as well as Australia's DJR Team Penske outfit.
Mercedes-Benz has not followed through on a highly-publicised option to create its own Formula E team for 2018. The German brand may pair up with Penske for Formula E's fifth season, or hold off to create its own machine in 2019 or beyond. Alternatively, it may choose to continue its focus on Formula 1, where Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg helped the brand secure three world titles.
BMW's commitment to Formula E will sit alongside a reborn GT program that with a next-generation sportscar taking on the likes of Porsche's 911 and the Ferrari 488 in the GTE-Pro class World Endurance Championship, including the famed 24 hours of Le Mans.
Those programs may spell the end of BMW's rumoured tilt at the much more expensive LMP1-Hybrid class at Le Mans, which was secured by Porsche's costly 919 Hybrid program in 2015 and 2016.
The nine manufacturers set to take part in Formula E from 2018:
- ABT Formel E (Audi)
- DS Automobiles
- Jaguar Land Rover
- Mahindra Racing
- NextEV NIO
- Penske Autosport
- Venturi Automobiles
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