There are few names in racing bigger than that of McLaren. So, when that organization says it is mulling over involvement in the upcoming FIA Formula E Championship series, it gets our attention. Big time.

When the Formula E recently announced it had its organizational structure in place, and had signed up its first city, it also mentioned something about, "interest being expressed from both traditional racing teams and global brands." No doubt McLaren was one of the teams they had in mind.

As if to substantiate that statement, McLaren Racing CEO and team principal Martin Whitmarsh is now being quoted by Reuters as saying, "I think there's quite a lot of interest... it's something that McLaren would be delighted to be involved with so we're obviously looking at it at the moment. Who knows, we might pop up in it."

Now, before we get too excited, we should also mention that he tempered those words by saying that, while it may enter a team at some point in the future, it will not happen right away. Rather, McLaren is looking at "the technology challenge and how we can contribute there."

The company has previously developed a 120-kW electric motor for automotive applications and also supplies electronic control units to Formula One and NASCAR teams. That's a handy bit of expertise in a sport that's using more electric motivation in a bid to reduce fossil fuel consumption at the track.

Regardless of when an all-electric McLaren Formula E car appears, one thing is certain: interest from high-profile companies such as this can only help increase the profile of the series and inspire others to get involved.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      Dave D
      • 3 Months Ago
      Wow! I would have never hoped for one of the true big name teams to jump in this early. This is a game changer for electric racing. They could totally legitimize the series just by participating...and maybe they'll have the weight to get rid of that MORONIC idea of having two cars and letting the driver run around between cars instead of doing battery swaps at pit stops!!!
        Letstakeawalk
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        No doubt that McLaren is a huge heavy-hitter.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          @DaveD: Sounds like that is why their target is 4 minutes, not 3:45. In addition to the considerations you mention, although I have been unable to track down any references easily, it is my understanding that the maximum efficiency of fuel cells is under part load conditions. This, if true, would impact the racing performance.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          @Dave D: From the info you give the present hydrogen racer comes up short of really being competitive, as it has a tank worth about 40 minutes of driving. The current model has around 36 litres of petrol equivalent, so that is already about 360kwh, way, way more than you could get with batteries at any do-able weight. After conversion losses that is maybe 220kwh or so, but even so..... They are aiming to increase that in the next model in 2013 to an hour and sub 4 minute laps, so that would be truly competitive: http://www.greengt.com/attachments/press-reviews/greengt-h2-technical-data-sheet.pdf
          Dave D
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Dave Martin, Yes, I was counting on them increasing either the capacity (pressure and/or size of tanks) or working on the efficiency some and then being able to swap tanks. If they can get to 50 minutes of driving time/tank and 3:45 laps, then they'd be challenging for the LMP2 category lead. The numbers actually work out. H2 and EV racing vehicles are going to have one challenge that ICE cars don't: HUGE aerodynamics vs down force. Oh, regular cars have this trade off, but they can afford to be silly to the extreme on the down force and just burn a little extra gas. For example, an F1 car has about 4,000lbs of down force and so much aero drag that they get something like 1.5 G's of force in their face simply by taking their foot off the gas at top speeds....their Cd is something over .9! How is an EV or an H2-electric car supposed to be able to waste the energy it takes to overcome that kind of aerodynamic drag??? And of course, the down force it generates is critical for cornering and the lap times they do today. So, can electrics make up for this with straight line speed and better acceleration out of corners? Probably not totally, so they either do shorter races or live with lower speeds.
          Dave D
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Funny, but as much as I've been a pro EV and very reticent about H2 in many ways, I'm finding that racing is one of those things that brings reality home, kind of like long haul trucking in the real world. Batteries will not solve everything, even for an EV fan boy like me. So I'm interested to see how the H2 entry will do at Le Mans next year. The LMP1 cars have to do at least 11 laps to be competeive at Le Mans without refueling and it would take at least ~75kWh of batteries to do that on an all electric EV, even in the best conditions (regen braking on all 4 wheels, etc). So even battery swapping at pit stops won't cut it for endurance racing. So H2 is the only real alternative to try for Le Mans in the short term. For F1 style racing, they could to say 2 battery swaps and get through a race today the way they used to refuel.
      Giza Plateau
      • 3 Months Ago
      Interesting. But it would be more interesting if they threatened to pull out of F1 if it didn't go electric.
        Dave D
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        Considering that F1 essentially IS what McLaren does...I'm not sure we'll see that one. :-) I'm just happy to see them willing to put their name and efforts behind something that may one day convert F1 to electric....even if it's 20 years from now.