Ahead of the final two races of Season 9 in London, Formula E showed off the "unlocked" potential of its Gen3 electric race car. The EV series has claimed the world record for indoor land speed, clocking in at 135.9 MPH (218.71 KPH) in a GenBeta development car. The run took place on a .176-mile straight on the London E-Prix circuit, a portion of which is inside the ExCeL London arena. The car, piloted by NEOM McLaren Formula E driver Jake Hughes, beat the previous record of 102.7 MPH (165.2 KPH) by 33 MPH.
Hughes went head-to-head with fellow driver Lucas di Grassi (Mahindra Racing) in a modified version of Formula E's duels format typically used for qualifying. Each one was given a chance to set the fasted speed on the indoor section of track and both bested the former world record on all three of their practice runs before making official attempts. Neither Hughes nor di Grassi had driven the GenBeta car prior to this exhibition.
Formula E says the GenBeta car has a number of upgrades to make it faster and more powerful than the Gen3 car used in race events. First, it has an enhanced power output of 400kW, up from 350kW in race trim. The added power comes via all-wheel drive for the first time in a Formula E car through "activation of the front powertrain kit" for more traction while accelerating.
“The GenBeta is the first time that four-wheel drive has been activated in a single-seater race car for both acceleration and braking regeneration," explains Alessandra Ciliberti, Formula E's technical manager. "The GenBeta showcases what will be possible for Formula E racing in the near future.”
The GenBeta car was also running softer Hankook tires which afforded "faster warm-up and better peak grip." The harder race-day tires are currently designed for all conditions and to offer low degradation over the course of an E-Prix. Additionally, 3D-printed wing endplates, wheel fins and a wind deflector were installed for enhanced aerodynamics and peak straight-line speed. Al was also used to analyze the drivers' runs, powered by Google's Vertex platform and McKinsey & Company's QuantumBlack, helping interpret telemetry and fine-tune strategy.
In order to make the record official, the drivers had to start from a standstill and completely stop inside the convention center. This meant taking a 130-degree turn at about 25 MPH before going flat out along the straight. Speeds were captured 16.4 feet before the drivers hit the breaking zone, or the section of the circuit needed for them to stop and remain inside the building.
The regular Gen3 car is already the fastest and most efficient electric racer ever built. It's capable of over 200 MPH at top speed and generates 40 percent of the power it needs to complete an E-Prix through braking. Formula E describes GenBeta as "an innovation platform" that was created by the racing series, the FIA, Sabic and Hankook. Projects with the vehicle are meant to experiment with new materials and technology in a bid to increase performance, efficiency and sustainability.