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Formula E
Episode 6521st April 2023 • Tech Talk with Amit & Rinat • Amit Sarkar & Rinat Malik
00:00:00 00:28:44

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Motorsports has long been a playground for experimenting with new technologies to push into the consumer cars segment. And Formula 1 has been the pinnacle of motorsport engineering. But with the future going towards the electrification of cars, there was a need for an electric car motorsport. Enter Formula E which has slowly become one of the most exciting sports event to watch on the planet.

In this week's talk, Amit and Rinat talk about Formula E, what it is, why it is relevant, how it is different from F1 and a lot more!

Transcripts

Rinat Malik:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Tech Talk, a podcast where Amit and I talk about all things tech. Today's topic is an exciting one. We're going to talk about Formula E. It's not Formula One Formula E A stands for electric. So, it is a topic that I'm not actually very familiar with. I will thank you for bringing up this topic. Let's talk about it and hopefully I'll learn a lot as well as hopefully our audience will do. What is what is Formula E? I have heard about Formula One, but I guess it's a newer technology.

Amit Sarkar:

Yeah, thanks for the introduction and formula is quite exciting. It's similar to Formula One. It's a race car racing event, but the cars are powered by electricity, so they are all powered by battery. And that's why it's called formula. And it's the exclusive championship in the world where all electric cars compete for the world title. So Formula One cars, initially they were all gasoline driven. And in the recent years, they have been converted to hybrid technology and they are part driven by a battery and part driven by gasoline. And they're trying to be carbon. They're trying to be carbon neutral as much as possible. And the reason I wanted to talk about formula E is because most of the new gasoline powered cars will be banned in Europe and in other countries starting 2030 2035. So that means most of the passenger vehicles will turn into electric vehicles. And that means when you are watching a race on TV, it's actually not the cutting edge anymore because you're watching vehicles powered by gas instead of electricity. And that's where for me comes because it's thinking about the future and thinking about like everything is going towards electric. So then why not have a racing event which is using a battery technology?

Rinat Malik:

Yeah, that is fascinating stuff actually, because I did my mechanical engineering from Coventry University is actually very famous for automotive. They have a very good connection with Jaguar Land Rover and there is a lot of automotive sort of work and research that also goes on and part of it is also building and designing better and better cars for Formula One. And while I was at uni, I remember one of the lecture was telling me that there is you know, always new innovations that are you know, there are a lot of companies are investing a lot of money for innovative technologies, and how can you make sure that it's still fair for all the all the people that are racing and at that time, electric vehicles not as commonplace as it is now. And one of the things that he was mentioning that in Formula One there is to make the make the race fair, or make the you know, make sure that not any one sort of company or brand doesn't get to advance too much advantage based on their technology. There was a limit on air intake. So no matter what, what technology you use, however innovative It is, however lightweight material is or the gas that you're using, but the air intake would be there is a limit like there is a specific diameter of a like intake hole through which you can use the air and then do anything else with it to come up with the best sort of machine that takes you the fastest. Now what I mean I'm sure there is kind of similar kinds of restriction as well in electronic or electric vehicles like form, you know, like the ones that are used in Formula E is there is there any insight do you have on that?

Amit Sarkar:

Yeah. So yes, you're right Rinat. I think Formula One. It's one of the most premier motorsports event in the world. It's watched by millions of people across I was a huge Formula One fan, but over the Pap, the last couple of years have not been watching it very rarely, but as a huge fan, during the Michael Schumacher era. So, in Formula One, what happens is they make sure that the field is level. I mean, it's a level playing field based on the budget, so sometimes they restrict the budget sometimes they restrict the engine size and as you mentioned, the air intake. So, there are different strategies. Sometimes they restrict only via manufacturer, so people can't take tires from any other manufacturer. They all have to take tires from one single manufacturer. So, there are different regulations. And then maybe the power output so etc, etc. So, in Formula E, because it's driven by electric, electricity, and it's powered by battery. The restrictions are basically two. One is the battery provider is same for everyone. And the chassis is the same for everyone. So, what they can do is the chassis is the body without a structure that you see, that holds everything together. So, what companies they can commodify is the powertrain so that drives the wheels. Then you have the inverters so that converts DC to AC that drives the electric motors that powers the wheels. And then you have the software. So, you can customize the software that you have written to manage the water body say how the energy is being utilized by all the wheels. So yeah, so those things you can modify, but there is a limitation to the battery as well. As the chassis and that's the same for everyone. So, all the cars they look the same from the outside. But of course, the mechanics are a bit different. But because we use the same battery it means the power output is also the same.

Rinat Malik:

Right? Okay. So that's what I was actually going to ask you a little bit more that I would have thought that there might actually limit the amperes like the battery would have this much electronic energy and not more or anything like that,

Amit Sarkar:

I think that's controlled by the software right. So, you have the like the engine control unit or whatever, it doesn't have an engine but I'm pretty sure that it has a control unit that controls how much you can use because bear in mind the battery you have to make it last longer and lasts for the whole day. So, if you use a lot of energy very quickly, then your battery gets discharged and then you might have to come to the pit Stop it late to recharge it.

Rinat Malik:

Do you not have the opportunity to change like you know, in Formula One I haven't actually been a big fan of it. So, I mean, I've only seen like very small clips etc. So, in Formula One, you come to the pitstop and then have your tires changed, etc. But do not get in Formula E do not get the option to change your battery altogether very quickly within seconds. So, you can

Amit Sarkar:

So, the battery is part of the chassis, right? So, it's very difficult to take out the battery. So, the only thing that you can do is charge it. So, when Formula One was law, a formula E was launched in 2014. So, it's about nine years now. What happened was that they could not the batteries, they could not be recharged during the race and the recharging capability was not fast enough. And so, they had to swipe the cars. So, the driver would come into the pit lane. Pit Lane is where the for the people who don't know motorsports pit lane is where the drivers come off the racing track. And they change the tires, the mechanics, look at the car, they check the fuel level, they clean the helmets, they, they do a lot of other if there is any damage to the car, they try to fix it in a very short period of time and they get back to the race. But when they enter the pit lane, that means that they're losing time on the actual race because they're not covering that period at a very high speed. Because when you come into play there is a speed limit at which you can come. So, in Formula E in the first the gen one car so currently the car generation is Gen three. So, in gen one the possibility of recharging the battery was not there. So basically, they come in one car and they used to drive out in another car so they used to jump out of the car. Say go sit in the other car, strap on the seatbelt and then go so it used to be they had to do it very quick. The power output was less the car was more heavier, and top speed was about 225 kilometer per hour. So, because the batteries were not that efficient in 2014 battery technology has improved significantly. So, in gen two what happened is the car became a bit lighter, the top speed went to 280 kilometers per hour. And they didn't have to swap out the battery, it could last for the whole race. So, with Gen three, what has happened on the car has become even more lighter. And, and the top speed has now reached about 300 Plus kilometer per hour. So that's a high very high speed. And the advantage of being light is that you can push a car for longer with the same amount of output energy output. So even if you have maybe higher power battery, but if your car is heavy, it will take more energy to push. But if it's light, then it takes less energy to push it so it means your car can go further. So that's why it's important to reduce the weight, increase the power output so it can go it can go faster as well as longer. And that's what has happened with the Gen three car. So over a period of time you have made a lot of improvements. Now when we talk about Formula E, why talk about racing? I mean, what is that? What's that got to do with the general population intrigued by it? Well, to understand that, you have to understand what why people do racing. So racing is purely done to win. So, you want to win a race. You also do it for marketing. You have a lot of advertisers who are put the stickers on the car, and you get money. But in order to win, you have to have a car that's very fast, and you have to have a driver who's very good and you have to have a car that is very safe. So that in case the car crashes because drivers take risk. When you have to compete, you take risks, and then that's how you win. And if you don't, if you take a lot of risk, then eventually there will be a crash and you want to make sure that the driver survives that crash. So, all the technology that goes behind it to making a car safe fast light is actually then gone. It's brought to the passenger vehicles. Because the thing like this, a passenger vehicle has to be manufactured, say, 1 billion cars, same car. So, they can't do innovation very quickly because it has to scale up to 1 million but with a racing, you have only two cars per team, or two drivers per team. Okay, so two drivers, two cars. So now that team can invest a lot of money to making their car perfect. And if that car works because of some innovation, most of the other teams will then adopt it.

Rinat Malik:

Exactly. I was actually just about to ask you that this has happens in many, many industries, right? I mean, NASA, you know for SpaceX exploration have discovered many, many things which have then been, you know, mass marketized like, you know, that has been in the mass market. And, you know, regular sort of population have adopted to those technology and became, you know, got a lot of benefit out of that. So, I really enjoyed this kind of like inter industry discoveries that you know, when one of the things I actually really very much enjoy is I used to have a motorbike and I had a motorbike s jacket. And that jacket is made for its windproof it's, you know, waterproof rain proof everything. And after I stopped riding the bike, I just kept the jacket because the jacket was so good for winter times anyway. So, so yeah, this kind of sort of cross industry or cross sort of discipline. Disciplinary discoveries, I think are very valuable to sort of mass population to sort of increase their quality of life. So, what are some of the ways that this happens from f1 on or if sorry, Formula E.

Amit Sarkar:

So, it's Formula E, what's happened is you are now pushing the technology in terms of battery life. How do you make a battery more powerful? And how do you make a battery to push a car at that high speed for a very long range? So, imagine there is a racing track, okay. And Formula E races somewhere at a remote location very far out from the city. They happen on city roads. So, they actually happen within the city limits because it's electric car there. is very less chances of explosion. Of course, batteries do explode, but they're very less chance. So formula E, and they don't go as fast as a Formula One car, but the Gen three canal can go very fast, up to 300 kilometers per hour, but they happen within city limits, so it means it's more accessible to people so if race happens in London, Formula One races happen in Silverstone which is very far from London, on the outskirts. Formula E can happen within the city in London, and then I can quickly buy a ticket and then go watch a race. So that's the beauty and then because the Formula E is powered by battery, you have to make the battery lasts longer and more efficient. And that's where the technology is getting pushed. So, say you want to push drive the innovation in battery technology through passenger vehicles. But you can't do that right because you manufacture a car. And then next year you have a new version, but most of the time you don't do I mean when you do research, you have to do it in a very slow process. And it is iterated development etc. But in racing, you can change things quickly because it is one car. So, when you have to change a million of cars, it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of effort and you want to get it right so that you don't lose a lot of money. Right. But in racing, if you have if something doesn't work out for the next race, you can change things and you can see if it's working or not. So that's how the technology gets pushed. The other way that technology gets pushed is through the power output, like how do you drive the wheels, so in the First Gen and Gen one and gen two cars, the output was only to the rear wheels. There was no output to the front wheel. with Gen three car you have an output to the front wheel as well. So that means that now you have four-wheel drive. Of course, the four-wheel drives are there in Tesla models and many other electric cars. So that's not new innovation. But resealing is now then pushing the boundary even further by using what do you say engine braking, so it's not engine braking as such. It's called regenerative braking. And that technology is basically what happens is that when you press the pedal to break the, the motors they go in reverse and they try to break slow down the wheel. And that energy then recharges the battery. So, in a hybrid car when you actually break it recharges the battery and you will see that I have a hybrid car Toyota Yaris and when I press the brake, it shows that the out of the needle points to the charging section. Similarly, in the regenerative braking, you can regenerate a you can reach out the battery from the front wheel as well as sorry from the front wheel and the rear wheel when you brake. The brakes are not there in the rear wheel. The brakes are still there in the front wheel, but the brakes are not there in the rear wheel the rear will slow down, and it charges the battery. Now what that means is that over a period of days, you actually don't have to charge if you don't want to, because you are recharging it on the fly just like a hybrid vehicle. So, if you're racing at, say 300 kilometers an hour, maybe not 300 throughout the race 200 Your average speed is about 200 kilometer per hour, and you're using a battery and that's getting recharged as you race. So that's innovation, right? That's driving innovation in a car.

Rinat Malik:

Wow. That is that is actually very interesting. And you know the way we could actually also use this sort of innovation in the sort of the consumer cars and also battery technology is has so much potential, right? I mean, you know, the hope is that because of the push for better batteries more durable easily chargeable batteries that can be used anywhere, not just in cars, but in your mobile phones and even space technology, as well as all the renewable energy because you know, when we talked about renewable energy in our previous episode, one of the biggest challenge was to store how to store the energies more efficiently and you know, with better battery technology, we can do that. So yeah, there's so much potential for improving battery technology. And, you know, Formula E might just be the incentive or innovative way to fund for these kinds of research.

Amit Sarkar:

Definitely and racing pushes the boundary like Formula One introduced carbon fiber into the body. It had active suspension, and many rays. I mean, the Formula One pushed the boundaries in getting a downforce. So, do you keep the car at very high and not let the car take off. So, all these technologies then they are brought to passenger cars, and that's what the beauty of racing is, you can drive innovation very quickly because people are competing and they want to be and the only person the only car that can win is a car that's fast, safe. And can last longer than the opponent. So that and that's why formula is I think important, because it's different from Formula One, because it's not happening in the cities. It's driven by purely electricity. It's, it's, I mean, the budgets are not as big as Formula One. The budgets are small the chassis is the same. Everyone has the same ground, the downforce effect, everyone has the same battery, so that the innovation then comes in powertrain, the software etc.

Rinat Malik:

Right. I wonder what is what could be the next step of motorsports? I mean, we are we're moving on from gasoline-based motor cars to electric battery powered motor cars. I mean, I'm wondering whether in future there would be no drones who are controlled by remote rather than a human driving it because that would take away the whole point of safety. Caveat and you know, if there is no human driving and then there could be it could be remote controlled from far away or it could even be AI powered AI driven. So, I'm just I'm just really excited to know what you know what the future holds for this.

Amit Sarkar:

Well, Actually. You’ve talked about a very interesting thing because recently I read the news that fighter jet was being driven by an agent, or sorry, not driven, flew, was being flown by an agent. So basically, an artificial intelligence software was actually flying the aircraft for a couple of hours. So that means that the defense forces are experimenting with this technology, where they can reduce the loss of human life, and they can still navigate a plane and it's not remote control. So, AI driven AI driven is not remote control, because remote control means there is a person, they are actually flying the aircraft.

Rinat Malik:

There is a important distinction because as far as I know, the US military already has like drones, which goes farther out and is remote controlled by from the base Yes, but that's completely different than AI driven or AI flown aircraft.

Amit Sarkar:

Absolutely because AI is like taking decisions on the fly based on how it has been trained. So, it trains under various circumstances it will be able to take decisions from its environment sensors, etc. And then fly the aircraft. So, it has to go through a lot of training in order to become successful Sims. It's something similar to Chad GPT chargeability was trained on the internet. So basically, the output is quite good because it's able to churn out a lot of cohesive information very quickly. from various sources and combine it same with the aircraft. And I'm pretty sure it will happen with motorsports. But I think sports is a place where the you have the human aspect as well as the technological aspect. The technological aspect is where the electricity part comes. Trans translating from gasoline, to electricity, but the human part is where you actually have the instinct where when do you break when do you accelerate? How do you how do you like, go ahead? Because if it's AI powered, yes, there will be a lot of fun, but it's like watching a video game, right? And Formula E by the way, I wanted to say this is actually kind of inspired by Mario Kart. So, the Mario kart racing game. And the way it's inspired is that there are particular sections in the track where if you drive you can get some energy boost in the current formula, i.e., the current season, what they're trying to do is and they keep changing these things, the current season, what they're trying to do is you can come to the pit lane, you can charge your battery for 30 seconds, and you can then use it wherever you want. extra energy. So it's like how do you drive innovation? So how do you make it video game? In the previous seasons, they had fan boost. So, with formula with the fan goes what happens is fans vote and vote and the person who wins will get some extra energy. So that extra energy can be used to accelerate. It's like how do you engage the audience as well? With a gasoline powered car, it was remember, if something is electric, it can be controlled. I mean, you can add a Wi Fi wireless technology. I mean, not that formula doesn't have it has radio technology. But what I'm trying to say is that because everything is powered by battery and then everything is controlled by electric unit. You can maybe gamify it. And that's where the fun part comes like the audience can get engaged the you can use that extra energy add at a certain time of the race. And it's the extra amount of energy, how much energy you get, what's the duration of the recharge, it's dependent on the rules and every with every season. The rules change season is basically a calendar year for people who are not into motorsports. So, one season means the calendar year of 2023 next season is calendar year 2024 calendar year starts on January ends in December so they have races across multiple geographies, just so that the fans can watch the most recent race happened in Hyderabad in India and it was quite fun. So yeah, those are kind of the ways that you actually involve the audience like how do you gamify it and then bring them to the bring them to participate in the race rather than just spectating?

Rinat Malik:

Oh, that is really guys really fun actually, for the audience be able to be part of it and also a very innovative way to make some extra income for the for the organizers because I'm sure I'm only hearing this from you now but I am thinking that in order for the fans to participate, they probably have to pay a fee don't pay

Amit Sarkar:

Maybe not fee but maybe like carrier fees like sending an SMS or because voting is through SMS is sometimes paid. So, like a premium number, so you pay for that. So mostly that but yeah, I think I don't think that you have to pay just to vote. Voting can be done quite easily. And imagine if it scaled up. You can earn a lot of money quickly, but I'm sure yes, that's how the business model might be running. But I think the focus should be like how do you gamify how do we make audiences of course families fanbase has now been removed from the current season, but this is something that they were experimenting with. So, in this season, they're experimenting with 30/32 pitstop, where you get some extra energy boost. It's like a, it's like a fast charger attached to your car, trying to reach out the battery. And see fast charging technology again is very important and very crucial for electric vehicles to succeed. Because if you can't charge a battery very quickly, then your electric vehicle will not succeed and will not have truly replace gasoline powered cars because gasoline powered cars. You just take the fuel nozzle, put it in your car and fill the petrol, shut it and you can drive so it's that simple. And it takes about 3040 seconds. But if it takes say 30 minutes to recharge a car to the full potential, then what do you do for 30 minutes and then there are people waiting to reach out the cars. So, all those things have critical. I mean you have to think about all these factors. Plus, imagine a grid is producing say 1000 megawatts of energy that make a lot of energy is being used by the industry, businesses, the consumers. Now suddenly there is an extra load of electric vehicles and all the electric vehicles. They are using the same energy that's saved when you are at home, you're using the same energy which the which we which we normally use, so it's nothing extra but suddenly the energy use starts going up because everyone now has electric vehicle charging at their home. Then they have to go on a trip. So, they have to have electric charges and that charges are powered by electric grid. So suddenly all the gasoline powered vehicles are now on the electric grid and that extra energy has to come from somewhere.

Rinat Malik:

That is interesting. Yeah. The way everything is sort of interlinked and you know changing one thing how significantly changes as a chain reaction to so many other things that is a it's very fascinating to think about, but yeah, no, I mean, you know, I've learned a lot about Formula E and I wish it just keeps innovating more and more new things and you know, experiments, experimenting with all of these new ways. It isn't just innovating the battery technology or the motorsport technology but also paying with economics and you know, social sciences because how the fans react and how to do the business model how to rethink all of these things are always fascinating and sort of very interesting to think about.

Amit Sarkar:

Definitely, racing is where innovation happens. Because if you want to produce something mass market, you need to drive innovation and one of the fastest ways to do that is through racing.

Rinat Malik:

Absolutely, absolutely. All right. Thank you very much for coming up with this topic. I'm really glad I've learned a lot about this, this industry this this whole area. Hopefully our audience have also benefited and is fascinated by all the new information they sort of came across today. Audience and other again requests to you please do reach out if you guys have any suggestions on what topics we should talk about, or if you'd like to come as a guest to talk about any of your topic of expertise. You're more than welcome to our contact details are in every platform wherever you're listening to us. do reach out and hopefully we will see you again next week.

Amit Sarkar:

Thanks bye