The new car is going to be more efficient, faster and will make for more exciting racing, Mahindra Racing chief executive officer Dilbagh Gill said on Monday as the team announced its commitment to the Gen3 era of Formula E that will begin with the 2022-23 season.
Testing for the forthcoming seventh season of Formula E – which has been designated a World Championship by the FIA, motorsports’ world ruling body – is currently underway in Valencia, Spain, with the first two races scheduled to be held in Santiago, Chile, on January 16 and 17.
In an interview, Gill, who is also Mahindra Racing’s team principal, speaks about the next generation of Formula E cars, the team’s target for the 2021 season and how its technology contributes to the Mahindra Group’s electric vehicle (EV) offerings in India.
How is the Gen3 car different from the previous ones?
In Gen3, the cars are going to become lighter, faster, (will be able to cover a) long distance and (have) quick charging. So, from a racing perspective, it’s going to be quite different, because you’re going to be adding in qualifying more than 120 horsepower to the car, and in racing more than 80 horsepower to the car. That’s a considerable amount. So, between those two, the car’s going to be so much faster in terms of racing.
And we’re going to be introducing quick charging. We’re going to have pit stops to recharge the batteries. And that’s also going to push the charging limits.
For the first time ever, we’re going to be harvesting energy from all four wheels. Today, we only do it from the rear wheels. Moving forward, it’s going to be from the front wheels, also.
The Gen3 is only going to come in for the 2022 season. What are the developments you are bringing for the 2021 season in January?
That’s what we’re testing right now in Valencia, Spain. We’ve put a brand-new powertrain in the car. We’ve worked with our partners, ZF and Shell, quite closely. We’ve put a new gearbox, a new motor, a new inverter. Essentially, every component of the car is new, including the lubricants that go into the gearbox, and for the wheels, et cetera.
We’re quite excited and we’ve tested the car... This is the biggest improvement we’ve ever made between two seasons. It’s going to be a good, exciting year going forward.
What kind of performance are you targetting for next season? From third or fourth in the constructors’ standings in the early seasons, Mahindra Racing finished ninth in 2019-20. You’ve got a new driver line-up for next season...
We have Alex Lynn and Alex Sims. Both of them have done a few seasons of Formula E racing with other teams. While they may be new to us, they are really experienced drivers, they are race winners from earlier, and... have won championships earlier. From that perspective, I think it’s really exciting for us because these two drivers have come in to help progress the team forward.
And, I think, as a goal, going to go back to where we used to be a couple of years ago, the third-, fourth-best team in the championship – I think that’s what we’re going to be targetting. We’re quite confident we’re going to get to that.
Nick Heidfeld is still involved with the team. He comes with huge experience (having raced in Formula One with Sauber, Williams, BMW Sauber and Lotus Renault). What does he bring to the team these days in his current role?
Nick basically understands what the drivers’ requirements are and translates that to engineering improvements on the car. He closely works with the drivers.
At the same time, he also helps advise me on the areas where we should be improving the performance of the car. Listening to all the feedback, looking at what’s happening, because he’s someone who can look at the track, look at the drivers. Nick brings in multiple areas of help to the team. As everyone knows, he’s a consummate professional. So for the last many years, what he has done has actually helped progress Mahindra to where we are today.
Mahindra is planning on putting half a million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2025. What kind of technologies are being integrated from Formula E to Mahindra’s road cars? Mahindra was an early mover in the Indian EV market...
That’s an interesting question, and that’s why we exist in racing.
So, for us, the racing programme involves both the learnings we have in Formula E, in terms of battery management, battery technology, powertrain technologies, efficiency improvement, et cetera. At the end of the day, for electric vehicles, software-simulation controls are really important. We work across the spectrum at Mahindra...from Pininfarina (acquired by the Mahindra Group in December 2015), for example, down to Mahindra Electric in India. And there’s a new project starting in the UK, also, where Mahindra Racing will be involved.
Could you tell me a little more about the UK project?
It’s about two-wheelers and motorcycles in the United Kingdom.
Do you see Mahindra returning to Moto3 (where it raced from 2011 to ’13), or maybe Moto2?
Not racing, but we’re working on a road electric motor vehicle.
India has millions of fans of motorsports, on two wheels and four wheels. But there aren’t many opportunities for young, aspiring drivers. Does Mahindra have any plans of launching a young driver programme in India?
We are not focusing on a young driver programme specifically for India. While we are focused on a young driver programme for our team, it’s going to be open to everyone from everywhere. We’re looking at the best global talent since this is a world championship.