Should Formula E fear F1’s 2026 rules?

A more clearly electrified outlook for Formula 1 in its 2026 technical window may raise questions about the ultimate viability of Formula E in the long term. The possible side effects of electrical heroism are not yet understood.

The 2026 Formula 1 engines will have close to a 50/50 split of power output from the internal combustion engine and MGU-K. The V6's output has fallen slightly from 540 kW to 400 kW, while the MGU-K's output has almost tripled from 120 kW to 300 kW. To achieve this, a much larger battery will be used.

This significantly increased electric contribution will be marketed by F1 as part of its sustainability agenda. This means that Formula E will have to fight even harder for recognition of its distinctive product on the global sporting scene.

The following of Formula 1 is clearly dwarfed by that of Formula E, which will celebrate a decade as the world's only all-electric motorsport championship this fall. But F1's messaging regarding electric car quotas could pose a new headache for FE.

Although Formula E has come a long way, there's no doubt about it, its messaging needs a big boost of acceleration for the sake of the championship and the manufacturers it represents.

Some feel that Formula E is a bit too porous at the moment. Despite four manufacturers confirming their next rules era, Gen4, there is a feeling that outside of that, there is a desire among a new generation of drivers or engineers to move from Formula 1 and its environs to Formula E – as they did in Gen1 and Gen2 – not where it needs to be for FE.

The poor reception the Gen3 car has received from manufacturers, teams and drivers makes Gen4 project management vital for Formula E if it is to make truly big strides.

Whether we like it or not, Formula E will always be compared to Formula 1 in one form or another.

The irony is that most of the top teams in Formula 1 and Formula E don't really care about the perception of comparison between the two series. But a lot of fans, viewers and general sports observers seem to care.

Perhaps they were anticipating the existential questions that will undoubtedly arise in the world of motorsport in the next two decades or so as the world transitions from internal combustion engines to alternative-fueled vehicles.

When The Race recently asked Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds how Formula 1's greater electric propulsion would change the landscape for FE, his response was thoughtful and quietly courageous.

“First of all, the existential moment always comes because Formula 1 is racing on internal combustion technology, whether that's in 2035 or whether it's moving along a little bit depending on which government you talk to and what their regulations are,” he said.

“There is a moment coming when it comes to alternative fuels because, in my opinion, continuing to race primarily on internal combustion is not going to be of interest to anyone.

He added: “Let us remind ourselves that we have the exclusive right under the FIA ​​to race only electric cars, and this is in our interest.”

This exclusiveness to the all-electric philosophy comes through a somewhat obscure decree agreed by then FIA president Jean Todt and Formula E founder and now Chairman Alejandro Agag in 2012 ahead of the FE's debut in 2014. It is believed that it was For a period of 25 years, meaning Formula E will be in its seventh ruleset by the time it rolls around in 2039, a decade in which the global automotive composition will be very different than it is today.

The FIA's commitment to Formula E has never wavered and is deeply entrenched, meaning it must see relevance and appeal to the automotive and consumer markets.

The timely commitment of three of the seven current FE manufacturers – Jaguar, Nissan and Porsche – to the fourth generation has given both Formula E Holdings and the FIA ​​renewed optimism.

However, outside the racing bubble, the way EV sales have stabilized shakes absolute confidence in the future of all-electric mobility.

Is the whole concept of electricity still a relevant concept?

Earlier this year, Tesla, the king of all electric car makers, laid off 10% of its employees as it beat market expectations by 13% and saw its first drop in deliveries in four years.

Its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, recognized these concerns, telling his company’s investors: “The global adoption rate of electric vehicles is under pressure, and many other automakers are pulling back from electric vehicles and pursuing hybrid vehicles instead.”

If Tesla was a litmus test for current and future confidence in electric vehicles, the global picture before the first quarter of 2024 was a little different. Indeed, electric vehicle sales are approaching 14 million in 2023, 95% of them in China, Europe and the United States, according to official sales statistics from the International Energy Agency and its Global Electric Vehicle Outlook Report.

Electric vehicle sales in 2023 are 3.5 million higher than in 2022, an increase of 35% year-on-year. This is more than six times higher than in 2018, just five years ago. In 2023, there were more than 250,000 new registrations weekly, more than the annual total in 2013, 10 years ago.

This puts into perspective why Formula E has been so important in the past decade. However, this does not guarantee a comfortable future. Global social and economic events can derail anything, adding further importance to the Gen4 ruleset and how Formula E can continue to carve out its own niche, even if Formula 1 becomes more glamorous in the meantime.

“How far they are [F1] I think we still have to go further on this electrification journey,” Dodds said.

“There are a lot of positives about going electric because I think it adds weight to the relevance and significance of electric vehicles and electric motors, which is what we're actually racing and the story we're telling.”

Of course, comparing one motorsport discipline where entry expenses exceed $750 million with another where the entry point is likely to be closer to €25 million, another with a maximum cost of $140 million (F1) and another where the maximum cost is €13.5 m ( FE), only reinforces why comparison between the two entities is fruitless.

“I don't think there are many people saying: 'Should we be in Formula 1 or should we be in Formula E?'” Dodds added.

“I think we're talking to completely different clients with completely different ambitions.

“At some point in the future, the question will be asked whether there is a place for both tournaments or whether they are different enough.

“I think the fact that Formula 1 is slightly increasing the amount of electrification doesn't really have any impact on us.”

Can Formula 1 and Formula E learn from each other?

Formula E's latest addition to its future network is Lola. She has big ambitions in Formula E, initially with Yamaha and Abt. But it also wants to use Formula E as a springboard for additional projects in electric motorsport.

Motorsport director Mark Preston told The Race he believes a lot of the learning will transfer from Formula E to Formula 1 and vice versa, “because Formula E has benefited from the work of KERS [in F1] “I think there will be knowledge going back to some of the developments in Formula One as well.”

“There will be a lot of learning from Formula E that feeds back into Formula 1 engines, I think, even if it is from the supply chain around us that supports both,” Preston added.

“I think we have enough differences in the way the cars work and the whole driving nature of them, the regeneration, the huge amounts of regeneration, and there is still a lot more technical difference. [to F1]. But it will be interesting to see how things go in their races as well in the future.

If you stand still in the race, you go backwards. This is the old adage. It is perhaps a little unfair to merge with the Formula E championship which, although it has struggled to capitalize on the peak viewing figures in important regions that it achieved in times of 2019/2020, is doing its best.

It had to battle the pandemic and the materials/components crisis in the following years, but that's what most branches of racing did. Maybe it affected a little more but now is the time for strong acceleration on and off the track.

Whether or not Formula 1 steals a march with its increasingly electric future may not make much of a difference right away. But Formula E knows it has to make Gen4 count and also start taking advantage of technical aspects such as lighter, faster-accelerating cars at the start of that era.

Maximum power recovery and sustainable fueling is a great place for Formula 1 to be in the near future. Its sustainability credentials will soar.

Meanwhile, Formula 1's designers and manufacturers' input will drive the development of battery technology more than Formula E does due to the nature of its specifications.

This may be bad news for Formula E, but the good news may be that it is still leading the way in its sporting and racing structure. Formula 1 will adjust drag levels through active aerodynamics and will use battery deployment as an overtaking aid that replaces the DRS system and which features a new 'overtaking' facility. But what that will actually mean for the quality of racing in practice will only be seen when the rules are implemented on track.

Such complications could give Formula E a head start as its new regulations clash with those of Formula 1. Time will tell.

But for now, Formula E remains in charge of its own destiny, regardless of its more mature, richer and more popular sibling sitting a little closer to its track.


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