Formula E’s new electric racecar is groundbreaking


– I’ve done some pretty crazy things while working for The Verge. I nearly blacked out in a
Red Bull Air Race plane once. I had Mario Andretti drive me around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an IndyCar. But today I’m about to do something that’s probably more exciting, and honestly more terrifying
than any of those other things. ‘Cause I’m going to drive
that electric racecar on an actual racetrack. Let’s go do this. (car engine whirring) Formula E is an all-electric racing series that was started in 2014 by
a man named Alejandro Agag. – Formula E could have been
created by two kind of people: either environmentalists or racing people. It was created by me. Racing guy. – [Sean] He’s obviously
kind of a brash guy, but it’s largely because of him that the series is even still alive today, as he’s brought in hundreds
of millions of dollars in investment and sponsorship money to fuel the series’ first few years. – Like I say, I’m not an environmentalist. I’m a racing man, but I do
worry about the environment. So if I can put both together, fantastic. – [Sean] It’s overseen by
the same governing body that runs Formula 1, and some of its drivers have even competed in that top flight racing series. It’s hard to start a new racing series. The biggest ones in the world, like NASCAR or F1 or even IndyCar, have struggled for
viewership and attendance over the last couple years, but Formula E faced a number
of additional challenges. The biggest is that its cars are electric. That meant no roaring gas engines and no quick refueling. In fact, for the first four seasons, drivers had to change cars
in the middle of the race just to get to the end. Right away that meant longtime racing fans dismissed the idea of quieter racecars that only lasted about 25 minutes. The idea was to bring racing
right to people in cities, especially the ones most
affected by climate change. Race these electric cars
on these city streets and you could promote
the idea of clean energy in a fun way and maybe
the younger generation would make their first car an electric one and not a gas-powered one. And so far, it seems to be working. Half a million fans came to
the races in the fourth season, and the series drew over 300 million television viewers worldwide. And the new car can last more
than 45 minutes per charge, and has a top speed of 174 miles per hour. It can also go from zero to
60 in under three seconds, which is plenty fast for
the tight street circuits that they race on. Formula E is already most of the way through its first season
with this new car, but I wanted to experience it for myself. So I headed to Spain, where
the Mahindra Racing Team was willing to let me take
it out for a couple laps on a small circuit outside Barcelona. (upbeat music) (car engine whirring) (men laughing) Hold up. Before any of that happened, though, the team had me run through a few trials. First up was a simulator, which was meant to help me
get familiar with the track. – It’s just one gear. – Okay, so it’s like a– – Like a go-kart.
– Right. That’s Mahindra driver Jerome d’Ambrosio, standing over my shoulder,
giving me tips on things like where to brake and
where to accelerate. – [Jerome] Where you did, but if you put the car more straight you will be fine.
– Okay. – And you kind of let
it roll in the corner. – Okay. And since Formula E competes
on temporary street circuits, drivers like Jerome have to spend hours in simulators like
these before each race. – [Jerome] Mark on the ground and then I’d build it up from there. – [Sean] The next day, though,
it was time to suit up. I started by driving one of the team’s first-generation cars, both to help get a feeling for the track, but also to hammer home the
comparison to the new car. I actually got to drive
the first-generation car in Mexico a few years ago, and it gave me a pretty good understanding of just how hard it is to
drive one of these cars. And then it was time to drive the second-generation Formula E car, which I should note, was
power limited to about 60 percent. (car engine whirring) Alright, so here we go. I’ve driven the first-generation
Formula E car twice now. Now it’s time to drive the new thing. The generation-two Formula E car. It’s supposed to be
faster and a lot more fun. (car engine whirring) Here we go. Oh my god. It’s definitely a lot faster. So this car is all about the
progress the series has made in five years — four years, really. And I could already feel it. Everything’s smoother. It really makes that first-generation car feel like a prototype. The throttle is smoother. The braking is smoother. The turning is smoother. I feel more tucked into this cockpit. I feel safer. I have a better view of the road. This one is just a lot more fun to drive. (car engine whirring) Oh, it’s quick. If you’ve been in an electric car, you know that they feel
fast, even if it’s a slow one like a Chevy Bolt. But there’s really nothing
to describe how fast this is. Whoa! Some of the first races in
the world were electric cars just drag racing in the early 1900s, and then we spent about a century
letting all the other cars have the fun. By some miracle, and
honestly a lot of work from a lot of different people, Formula E has taken a really wild idea and turned it into
something really serious in just five years. This car is already well
above what I’m able to do as a complete amateur. If this is just the first five years of serious all-electric racing, then I’m really excited to
see where the next five go. And I definitely want to
drive it again at that point. Okay, so I’m out of the car. I have no voice left because
I was shouting to the video while I was driving. So I’m out of the car. That was pretty wild. I mean, I’ve driven the
first-generation car twice now, and it’s honestly kind of terrifying. The weirdest thing about this car is that it’s not all that different from the original version
that Formula E has run for the last four years. It looks a lot different, for sure, and there are a lot of
technical differences under the hood. But one thing I could definitely tell with the new Formula E car is that because of all these refinements, it would be easier to
push it a lot harder. You could go into a corner a lot faster. You could come out of
a corner a lot quicker. You could really just do more with it if you were a talented racecar driver, which I’m not. And the importance of that is really, it shows how much progress
this series has made in five years, which is really wild. It’s hard enough to start a racing series, no matter what your car is powered by, but a car that’s powered by electricity is relatively unheard of in racing, and to be able to create
an entire series over it is beyond unheard of. It was almost unfathomable. I mean, these guys got a lot of laughs when they started this
thing five years ago, and I think this car is
really going to be the thing that makes people stop laughing,
even if they still are. (car engine whirring) Thanks for watching. If you have any other questions about what it was like to drive this crazy electric racecar, hit me up in the comments, and be sure to like and subscribe. Thanks for watching.