How do Formula 1 Cars Differ to Formula E Cars?

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How do Formula 1 Cars Differ to Formula E Cars?

Formula 1 represents the top level of professional motor racing. It attracts the best and brightest drivers, but now it has competition.

The Formula E World Championship follows a similar format, but the cars driven are all-electric rather than hybrid vehicles. At a time of increasing interest in the potential for electric cars to help with the environment, it is a way for motor racing to show support for that.

There are differences in the cars involved in these two competitions beyond the means of propulsion though.

Formula 1 Cars: A Brief History

Formula 1 was launched in 1950. Italian driver ‘Nuno’ Farina won the first ever race at Silverstone in an Alfa Romeo 158 and he went on to become the first championship winner in that same car. 

Formula 1 cars have progressed since those days though. Whereas the maximum speed that the 158 could hit was 180mph, the cars of 2023 are capable of 225mph as well as going from 0 to 60 in a couple of seconds.

That is because of developments in engine tech. A top Formula 1 car of the 1950s might be fitted with an eight-cylinder 1.5-liter engine capable of 350bhp, but the cars of today have V6 turbo hybrid 1.6-liter engines that offer 1000bhp while also consuming less fuel.

It is not just the engines that have changed significantly either. 1950s Formula 1 tires were very skinny compared to today, with the widening process starting in the 1960s. 

Then slicks were added during the following decade, which improved safety at high speeds on wet tracks. The tires have always been made by Pirelli, but this century has seen them widen considerably and they are fitted to high quality alloy or cast racing wheels.

The introduction of Formula E as an all-electric alternative to Formula 1 came in 2014. The hybrid engines used in the main competition show that environmental awareness was becoming a factor even before that though.

Differences between Formula 1 and Formula E Cars

Essentially, the differences between Formula 1 and Formula E vehicles boil down to two key areas:

  • Vehicle power
  • Vehicle speed

Vehicle power

First of all there is the matter of the way that the vehicles are powered. The cars used in Formula 1 have hybrid engines that run on a combination of internal combustion and electric motors.

These are better for the environment than earlier models, but still contrast with the all-electric cars utilized for Formula E. All-electric means they are not powered by standard engines at all, but by a motor that is charged with electricity before the race. 

These vehicles are even more environmentally-friendly because they do not give off any harmful emissions. However, there are speed differences.

Vehicle speed

Formula 1 car engines are capable of delivering 1000bhp; whereas at the moment the battery-powered motors of Formula E ones are restricted to 350bhp. That means both maximum speeds and acceleration are slower, but the tech behind Formula E cars is progressing rapidly.

They are now able to accelerate to 100km/h from nothing in seconds and can hit speeds of 280km/h during races. The maximum Formula E car speed is currently 322km/h, whereas in Formula 1 it is 372.5km/h.

Formula 1 cars are faster at the moment, but that may not stay the case forever. Furthermore, Formula E is intended to shift the conversation to electric cars rather than directly compete with Formula 1.

It features more twists and turns on the race tracks to allow for breaks to re-charge the cars and is a different type of experience. At the moment, Formula 1 cars are probably still the best racing cars, because of their greater speed and acceleration, but Formula E vehicles are the future of the sport.

Formula E cars are showing the way forward and closing the gap.

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