BMW follow Audi in pulling out of Formula E

Formula E

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BMW have announced their intention to leave Formula E at the end of this season, on the day after the end of Valencia testing.

BMW entered the series as a full factory team at the start of FE’s second generation era in 2018, having worked increasingly closely with Andretti’s Formula E squad in the two seasons prior and been a sponsor of several E-Prix. The team has had mixed success, winning their debut race as a factory team and taking a further three wins in the subsequent season but equally suffering mechanical and set-up problems at some venues.

In a statement today, BMW said they had “always used Formula E as a tech lab for production” – which they felt had now run its viable course, repurposing engineering resource to their road vehicles.

“The same engineers who develop the drivetrains for electric production vehicles are also responsible for the drivetrains in the race cars,” said BMW in a statement. “Examples of the successful transfer of technology between the Formula E project and production development include new findings regarding energy management and energy efficiency, the transfer of software for power electronics from racing to production, and an improvement in the power density of the e-motors.

“When it comes to the development of e-drivetrains, BMW Group has essentially exhausted the opportunities for this form of technology transfer in the competitive environment of Formula E.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by Audi, who announced their departure from the all-electric series on Sunday. BMW said that electrification was now the “new normal” while Audi stated that during the course of their time in Formula E their development had changed so that “electromobility at the four rings is no longer a dream of the future, but the present.”

Both Audi and BMW have developed their powertrains for the two-season homologation cycle Formula E is currently in but will depart halfway through that, after just a single, further season as factory entrants.

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Audi has also confirmed it will leave Formula E
Audi are refocussing on an electric Dakar entry and hybrid technologies for endurance racing, while BMW announced no further motorsport plans, instead saying “the strategic focus of BMW Group is shifting within the field of e-mobility. In the future, greater emphasis will be placed on the comprehensive scaling of the offering and global production.”

Formula E moves to a rapid-charging-focussed third generation of cars in 2022, which Mahindra were the first manufacturer to commit to. Audi are one of two teams, with Nissan, who have worked on advising the FIA and representing the interests of manufacturers in the coming regulations and team boss Allan McNish said that their departure was not prompted by concerns over the next generation.

Audi and BMW both also withdrew their factory DTM teams at the end of the 2020 season, although were supportive to supplying privateer entrants their GT cars.

It is understood there are multiple manufacturers looking to enter Formula E, with KIA and Hyundai amongst names that could take up Audi and BMW’s slots.

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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48 comments on “BMW follow Audi in pulling out of Formula E”

  1. More to the point, lithium based fuel cells have run their course.

    1. Adrian, you’re rather contradicting yourself there by saying “lithium based fuel cells” – I presume you are trying to say a “lithium based battery cell”, because “fuel cell” usually means something very different.

      As for saying that they “have run their course”, the VW Group doesn’t seem to think that’s the case given the $86 billion they announced they were spending on battery electric vehicles over the next 5 years – a 25% increase on their original target, and now making up about half of VW’s budget for research and development over that period.

    2. They certainly haven’t with power delivery expected to rise a further 100kw in 2020 and flash-recharging to allow pit-stop recharges. There is a lot of development to go and BMW is simply turning tail and running.

    3. That’s handy – some people could use that Lithium for medical purposes.

    4. Adrian perhaps you should re-read the article. EVs are going to be around for some time and their development will mean input from a form of competition. I know VW have just knocked all racing activities on the head, but I would think they will draw their advanced tech from someone/somewhere else. Remembering they are very much still paying for the massive diesel scam they attempted to pull.

    5. I agree. Investments in electric cars do not make sense anymore. Time for a new chapter and its is not going to be a battery based electric one, for sure. Way too much polution with those cells. No sense in optimizing this. It was a nice angle / experiments but it does not seem to be the way forward.

  2. Well, they decided to curb innovation in the name of BOP, essentially going back on their stated mission from when the series was established.
    By forcing participants to tightly regulated design parameters and going in to a FOUR season freeze on the Gen3 car, I guess were just not seeing much ROI for the Big Auto to have their name equity associated with the small audience niche spec bumpercars.

  3. It’s actually rather concerning for Motorsport in general to see so many big names pull out in rapid succession.

    Partly this is because the German manufacturers are very focussed on their rivalry with each other. But if Formula E was selling electric cars, or any kind of car, Audi and BMW would be staying. Clearly Formula E is not selling cars… so what hope for Motorsport in the electrified future?

    1. Yeah, it’s a bit like how they all left DTM behind, isn’t it? For quite similar reasons too I think.

    2. This is why, despite the circumstances F1 absolubtly NEEDS it’s Lawrence Strolls and Dmitry Mazepins

  4. Does anybody actually follow Formula E?

    For me it just continues to be dreadful, I genuinely prefer watching pro RC racing, or the more serious side of sim-racing.

    1. Yes, there’s plenty of us who follow it. It’s nice to see close racing on challenging tracks. I prefer F1 and the spaced out calendar is annoying but it’s still enjoyable.

    2. It’s strange. Formula E has the trappings and appearance of a top series. In some ways it’s better sponsored than F1. Great brands. However, once the race itself starts it’s all rather underwhelming. Frankly, I don’t mind the lack of speed so much as I despise the stupid tracks they race on. Absurdly narrow. Every races is a stupid carnage because there not enough room. Also, the fanboost is utter garbage. Worst thing I’ve ever seen in motorsports.

      Get rid of a couple of things in Formula E and I think it has massive potential.

      1. @ajpennypacker Totally agree. I understand what they are trying to do, bring the racing to the people, but until they start racing on proper circuits I will never be an engaged fan of the series.

      2. F1oSaurus (@)
        3rd December 2020, 7:24

        @ajpennypacker Wouldn’t the lack of speed be even more apparent on proper circuits though?

        1. @f1osaurus I would doubt it. The cars don’t look slow at Valencia, where we’ve been testing all week and which is fundamentally the opposite of a conventional FE track.

          The point is more that the series doesn’t exist to replicate Grand Prix racing but electric. That may make it less interesting to fans of strictly circuit racing but it’s a differentiator not a limitation per se.

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            3rd December 2020, 10:33

            @hazelsouthwell I guess it’s what you compare them to. They would beat a road car I guess. Compared to an F1 car they are extremely slow though. Would they even beat an F3 car?

            The point is that it makes sense for them to hide this slowness by making sure they drive on circuits where it’s less visible how slow they are. While also making it impossible to compare their lap times.

            That they do some testing on a more traditional circuit (when no one is watching) doesn’t really change that.

          2. @f1osaurus

            It was an obvservation that they don’t look slow there either, where I was watching it. Slow is a very relative concept tbh – if a race car is whooshing past you then a race car is whooshing past you and a few 10s of kph doesn’t matter that much. I do think it’ll be quite funny, if we get to run Monaco next season as planned, seeing if people think the unstable, sliding FE cars “look” faster.

            FE cars aren’t built for speed; you could make a much faster electric race car with the right aero. An EV Grand Prix car would look nothing like an FE car and would have massively higher horsepower. Speed is gained, of course, by running on top facility surfaces, with faster tyres that you run through multiple sets of rather than a single set (+2) that must last an event, with lighter chassis and the addition of virtually any aero (there is no downforce on an FE Gen2 whatsoever; what there is is all in the floor) and you could build electric race cars capable of a sprint race at a much higher lick on, say, Jerez.

            The purpose of FE’s race constraints was, to some extent, driven by necessity in the first season. Subsequently, the series has strategically moved towards prioritising road surface efficiency; whether that’s the physical energy loss within an optimised drive train (and preventing that degrading over the full season they have to run one) or, where there is more to be gained (basically any powertrain will be over 95% efficiency on a physics level) in thermal management of the battery, optimising regeneration, finding new ways to do more with a restricted amount of energy – or to be able to recover more than others. For awhile, that’s been technical and we’re now really seeing it come into its own as racecraft, from teams investing in optimising their personnel setup and finding the small gains from specific efficiencies, to the tricks like slipstreaming that no one really anticipated would be such a game-changer in a series with no aero to speak of but will likely dominate Season 7.

            Formula E cars are not designed to run on traditional circuits or to be Grand Prix cars, it is simply a different series. It’s like comparing rallying to DTM just because they use road-like cars. (I’m sure Elfyn Evans could get a higher average speed if he didn’t have to keep trying not to go off a cliff but then all that suspension would look like pointless weight…)

          3. F1oSaurus (@)
            3rd December 2020, 16:00

            @hazelsouthwell Well they ARE actually a lot slower so they would look “slow” to an F1 or F2 viewer. Just as F3 does.

            When they ran in Monaco last they were really a huge lot slower. The drivers also had the same story as to why they would be 20 to 30s slower than F1 cars on the full track and how that really doesn’t matter at all, but don’t pretend it’s barely visible.

            The gap would be similar from F1 to Porsche lap times or maybe just about to the level of F3 cars.

            It’s fine that they are going for something different, but that doesn’t negate the fact that people who do watch other race classes will notice the lack of speed.

            So comparing a formula E car to other formula cars doesn’t make sense because a DTM car isn’t a rally car?!?!?!?! I get that you love to spread the FE propaganda, but come on. You really just make FE look worse with excuses like that.

            You are right that FE cars are not really comparable to F1 cars, but that’s exactly the point! They are trying to sell a series comparable to F3 but then with veteran drivers instead of rookies. While still trying to pretend it’s at “F1 level” somehow. So yes, they will be keen on hiding how slow those cars really are on a proper track, because that speed is a big part of what racing is about. The faster the “higher”.

            There is noting specific about FE cars that separates them from F3 cars.

            DTM does race on real circuits and they do so just fine. The reason they also race on street circuits is because it’s a regional race class.

          4. Khristina Farr
            3rd December 2020, 22:33

            Most boring sport ever , some friends went to see it , said heard better sounding hairdryers , no atmosphere, no difference between the cars in sound , such a toy car sound that unless regulations forced on people nobody would even look at electric car ! No character no sound , no identify, motorsport mat as well call it a day if that’s the future !

  5. Not surprised by BMW leaving, they don’t stick with anything (see F1, LeMans,etc). Perhaps the so-called Eco friendly battery cars are finally been exposed as a sham – recent study shows that the Polestar 2 – owned by Volvo- generates 24 tons of carbon dioxide to produce versus 14 tons for the petrol Volvo XC40 with the e car needing to be driven 48,700 miles to break even for the tones of carbon dioxide it used to be created. Another scam in the name of the environment.

    1. So, given that cars almost always drive more than 50,000 miles in their lifetime, it’s worth the trade off then.

    2. Way to make EV’s look great. 48700 miles,I know plenty of people who do that in under two years with EVs. I actually expected the break-even mileage to be something like 120k++, under 50k is pretty good.

      I mean I don’t much enjoy Formula E, and I really don’t like Polestar cars, but come on, that’s a bad faith argument if I ever saw one.

    3. Apart from that “study” being a hoax funded by Petri companies (the real number is less than half), as @netm mentions it’s not even a bad number of km over lifetime

    4. Kurt Laguna, as others have noted, if that is the figure (noting the response by BasCB that the study you’re citing is likely overestimating those figures), you’re actually making a great case for electric cars.

      In places like the UK, for example, the average car does significantly more miles than that during its lifetime, so it would actually result in fewer emissions over the lifespan of those cars.

  6. More disinformation peddling. The study is rubbish – involves no actual science or measurement and was produced by a PR firm on behalf of ICE manufacturers and other vested interests. Google astongate Or read the front page of a uk paper tomorrow.

    1. And even though the study is rubbish, it still accidentally favours EVs (at least, for anyone who can do basic math).

      1. No it doesn’t by the time you’ve done 50000 miles you will probably need new batteries apart from the fact that your car will also be worthless

        1. Electric vehicles don’t devalue at the same rate that ICE vehicles do but aside from that, even if a battery was showing stress by that point (it shouldn’t be – in excess of 100,000 miles would be more likely but many cars do carry on beyond that, eg: my mum’s Renault ZoE, hardly a high-end car in the first place) then it can be easily serviced without an entire new unit.

  7. It is understood there are multiple manufacturers looking to enter Formula E, with KIA and Hyundai amongst names that could take up Audi and BMW’s slots.

    And that’s not something F1 has going for it… Regardless of these teams pulling out I still see FE in a far better place than F1 in terms of its purpose.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      3rd December 2020, 9:15

      It’s another geopolitics sign.

  8. This pretty much confirms the point I raised when Audi announced they were leaving FE.

    I am not sure how much real road relevance FE has, but it’s always appeared to me as a cheap publicity/PR stunt. I may be wrong, but that’s how it comes across. I take is that the series proving to be exactly that, cheap. As a marketing exercise, it probably isnt generating the expected value.

    ICE based vehicles are still make up the bulk of the revenue generated by all mainstream car manufacturers, it isnt going to change in the short term, well until governments start banning them of course. So that’s another 10 to 15 years of solid revenue. With Audi going back to Le Mans, I believe they see value in the marketing, and technological, potential in an ICE based series.

    Further to this, perhaps the big manufacturers are considering different energy mixes other than just BEV. I’m a big believer in a diverse mix going forward. Conventional fuel, syn fuel and hydrogen (which be largely produced by big oil) can be distributed using the existing infrastructure (pending modifications of course), while also having BEVs and potentially nuclear fuel cell type solutions (see NDB batteries). The point is that, putting all eggs in the BEV basket will place heavy strain on electricity grids, having a mix is a better solution.

    I believe we will see a car complete Le Mans in a HFCEV before a BEV.

    1. FE road relevance is magnitudes greater than F1 (not that F1 has much, if any). Lucid for one have been touting how useful it’s been to them in developing their upcoming sedan with its tiny and powerful drivetrain. They get almost directly tangible products, the rest of the manufacturers might only get to expose some of their engineering division to the concepts – I imagine they’ll see value in that in the long term.
      Even BMW, with their (recently rather) lacklustre range of EV’s, was up to 8% of total sales last year. They’re seem to be doing some profit taking just now and will probably get serious with new investments when world economy and VAG dust settles (no apparent FOMO for brave Bavarians).
      Even in the near term, economically none of the alternatives to BEV you mention make sense other than for edge cases. Oil lobby pushes this palaver (and will do so more stridently as time goes by) but I can’t see many responsible govts subsidising these schemes to the required level. Glad to see you mention the grid being under strain – congrats on the trifecta.

      1. “Glad to see you mention the grid being under strain – congrats on the trifecta.”

        So if everyone decides to plug in their BEVs, are you suggesting that that it wont add strain to the grid? I’d be happy to be corrected on this point.

        If the grids are developed to cater for additional capacity (regardless of the mix) to meet the projected demand, then there should be no problem. However, if you have governments touting plans to ban ICE vehicles in another 10 years, I hope for the sake of the people in those countries that they’re heavily investing in their upgrading their grids now. 10 years isn’t that long a time from a large scale project execution perspective.

        I dont have any agendas or allegiances, I’m firmly of the belief that the best tech/product will win out. I am open to anything, as long as it makes sense. I actually hoping to not have to own a vehicle at all in the coming years.

        With respect to hydrogen, you are very correct in saying that it isnt economical as things stand, but that doesnt mean that it will stay as such forever. There are similarities between LNG and H2 wrt to transportation, but I am not discounting the significantly colder temperatures required to for the latter. On the plus side, big oil companies who deal with LNG (Total, Shell, Chevron) have significant experience with dealing with highly volatile liquids that need to be kept very cold, hence there is already a good basis. Secondly, I believe that initial proliferation will probably come from Blue H2, which is derived from CH3, and then eventually transition to Green H2. The people I know who work in the power/energy industry are projecting similar shifts. These companies are already investing in H2 without any form of government subsidy.

        I believe the best way to move forward is with an open mind, not favour one over the other.

        1. If everybody jumps at the same time is there an earthquake? Lets try it at 14:00 GMT.
          I’m not aware of any first world grid currently under strain from EVs and it won’t happen in the future with targeted natural upgrading and, more importantly, infrastructure connected devices. Suppliers already passively manage demand with off peak rates, they’re rolling out active management – talking directly with home solar, battery and EV chargers. Add in ubiquitous Vehicle 2 Grid as soon as cell life exceeds say 1500 cycles (in say 2-5 yrs) and we’ll be seeing far more robust supply than is currently ;) the case.
          Losses from hydrogen in creation, storage and conversion just make in non-economic compared to petro and BEV even when it’s produced from natural gas (the cheapest way). For the wider market, it will only work when governments put their hands in our pockets.
          Flogging hydrogen as a general solution isn’t a new strategy from the oil lobby, the trends have been obvious for a very long time – remember GW Bush pushing hydrogen infrastructure/trying to garner support for subsidies? It’s hardly surprising, oil producers are both the subject matter experts and have no other path forward.

          1. Just to add to this, several pilots have now been run where EVs work as grid storage and ultimately feed back into the grid, so they could actually become very useful infrastructure elements (especially as there’s further move towards renewable sources)

          2. “If everybody jumps at the same time is there an earthquake? Lets try it at 14:00 GMT”

            Off to get my jumping shoes.

        2. @jaymenon10 at least in the UK, the head of National Grid has confirmed that just the planned wind power installations alone would be enough to cover the electricity demand for the whole of the UK for battery vehicles in that period.

          At the moment, the suggestions of hydrogen and synthetic fuel don’t look particularly appealing in terms of overall efficiency of the production cycle – they’re significantly less efficient than a battery vehicle is, with synthetic fuels especially bad (the Royal Society estimating the latter is barely a fifth as efficient as a battery electric vehicle).

  9. Unfortunately hydrogen can’t be distributed using existing infrastructure. It has very, very different requirements. Even if it’s converted to ammonia first, huge differences.

    I think manufacturers need to look to electric and hydrogen vehicles for new cars they sell.

    But that doesn’t fix the problem of the billions of ICE cars currently running—which is where synthetic and/or bio-fuels can play a huge part. Ultimately it’s better for the environment to keep using the cars we already have, but fuel them with a renewable fuel source; rather than all go out and buy new cars which require huge amounts of energy and resources to manufacture.

    In short, I somewhat agree with you. The solution is a mix. I think F1 has the opportunity to lead on the synthetic fuel front.

    1. Bugger that was supposed to be a reply to @jaymenon10.

  10. Audi are one of two teams, with Nissan, who have worked on advising the FIA and representing the interests of manufacturers in the coming regulations and team boss Allan McNish said that their departure was not prompted by concerns over the next generation.

    eh, yeah, so that was useful, right?

  11. Well well well the great ‘hope’ and future of motorsport is but play things for the gods.

    Bio or synthetic fuels are the future anyway. Big wake up that 99% of the planet will never be able to run electric. OK for the rich West but vast swathes of it are not the rich West. Very excited about bio in F1 and an end to the dead end electric future driven only by legislative fines on manufacturers rather than any ‘green concerns’.

  12. Jose Lopes da Silva
    3rd December 2020, 9:16

    “It is understood there are multiple manufacturers looking to enter Formula E, with KIA and Hyundai amongst names that could take up Audi and BMW’s slots.”

    Just like the Arecibo radio-telescope fell off while China has now the biggest radio-telescope in the world.

    This is West making way to the East.

  13. Audi back at Le Mans where they truly belong.

    Formula E’s loss is a huge boost for the LMH class, which is something I’m actually really looking forward to seeing.

  14. i fully support and expect an EV future for roadcars. but manufacturers have evolved and matured enough that they spend billions on R&D and dont need motorsports (EV or otherwise) anymore. F1 or FE or whatever need to forget about obsessing over road relevance and just have more open formulas where manufacturers can really have the freedom to express weird and wild stuff against each other for real bragging rights.

  15. They’re simply pulling out because it’s slow and boring.

  16. I came her (pun intended) expecting pull out jokes and puns, I am both disappointed and relieved

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