Qualcomm Joins “Formula E” (as in Electric) Auto Racing Series

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energy from an electromagnet in a mat on the ground to a receiver in the electric vehicle, won’t be used to charge the Formula E cars under development. Instead, Qualcomm said it would be installing its wireless EV charging technology in the pace cars—also known as safety cars—that are used to limit the speed of race drivers during a caution period triggered by a hazardous wreck or obstruction on the track.

That must have been a letdown for the EV enthusiasts in the Qualcomm palace on Morehouse Drive. After all, Qualcomm brought its top European executive, Andrew Gilbert, to the company’s San Diego headquarters in 2012, to promote the company’s wireless charging technology (and their plans for a Formula One EV) for local media. Gilbert acknowledged at the time that plug-in systems for charging EVs are significantly less expensive than the wireless charging technology.

So it was hard to tell if there was any air escaping from the company’s enthusiasm when Qualcomm said only the safety cars would be recharged wirelessly during the inaugural season under its partnership with Formula E Holdings.

In an interview with U-T San Diego’s Mike Freeman, Qualcomm’s Anand Chandrasekher says the company wants to embed charging pads in the road along the race routes in future race series, so the Formula E cars could charge during the race. But Chandrasekher, who is Qualcomm’s chief marketing officer, adds that the company must refine its technology before that could happen.

Qualcomm said it also plans to evaluate the connectivity and mobile technology of the 10 venue cities around the world, and could provide technology to enhance the spectators’ experience—such as live streaming, video gaming, and social media.

Two U.S. cities, Los Angeles and Miami, are among the ones that plan to host the series.

A proposed calendar for the tour is scheduled to go before FIA for approval this month at a regular meeting of the World Motor Sport Council. The other cities named to host the races are Bangkok, Berlin, London, Rome, Beijing, Putrajaya, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro. FIA’s final approval will depend on how well each city is progressing on such key elements as municipal approval, race course infrastructure, sponsorships, racing teams, and cars.

Races would begin from a standing start and last for approximately one hour, with drivers making two mandatory pit stops to change cars. During the race, EV engines would be restricted to power-saving mode (133kw/180bhp) but drivers would be allowed to accelerate to a maximum (200kw /270bhp) by using a “Push-to-Pass” boost system. More information about the race format can be found here.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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