Drivetrain development still an option for Extreme E, but hydrogen remains the focus

Extreme E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag has left the door open for the series to allow technical development from teams, but has reiterated his desire to focus on providing a platform for hydrogen technology in the future instead.

Currently a spec series with cars built by Spark Racing Technologies and batteries provided by Williams Advanced Engineering, it has long been suggested that Extreme E could follow Formula E’s lead by allowing teams to develop their own powertrains. While the option is still on the table, Agag admits that technical development could widen the competitive order and make the series less attractive for those already involved.

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“Racing is all about winning and if you don’t ever win, it gets boring and you perhaps leave the sport. So I think creating championships where the possibility of winning is for everyone is very important,” he told select media including RACER at last weekend’s Hydro X Prix in Scotland. “But there are different schools of thought. What’s happening today in Formula 1, for example, with Red Bull – I think it’s even slowing down their cars just not to win by 20 seconds – I think it’s not good for the sport.


“You need the competition and here, it’s new teams on top but I think the teams that won last year are also incredibly competitive so we can see them come back. It’s great for the sport.”

Stretching back into last year, Extreme E has had six different winners in the last eight races, with every team – including the departed XITE Energy Racing and new-for-2023 Carl Cox Motorsport operation – appearing on the podium in that time. But aside from sporting considerations, costs are also a concern, with drivetrain development having the potential to multiply budgets several times over.

“We almost think that it’s not our direction because if you open technology here, and we’ve thought about it, everything needs an extra car to test different car to test the different powertrain,” Agag said. “The championship is probably not in a position to open up the technology because the costs would be so high.

“Off-road has less financial muscle than formula racing. In Formula E the teams are spending £30, 40, 50 million a year, here the teams are spending two, three (million), but if you want to develop a car that will compete, you will spend a minimum of 15, and where do you get that 15?”

Expanding, Agag drew comparisons with his time running the Addax GP2 team, explaining that setup can be enough of a differentiator in a single-make category.

“It’s all a question of money in the end,” he said. “Do you want to develop the technology together so you save money and everyone has the same car?

Andretti, McLaren, and Abt Cupra all compete in Formula E as well as Extreme E, where they run customer powertrains from Porsche, Nissan, and Mahindra respectively. Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images

“Setup plays a big role anyway, and your engineers, your mechanics, and your strategy.”

“I spent seven years in GP2, we all had the same machine, we all had the same engine, but sometimes my car was two seconds faster and sometimes my car was two seconds slower because of setup, because of working the car for the specific race.

“So for the future in Extreme E, we may open some stuff but it’s probably more going in the direction of hydrogen. That’s where we are looking.”

The introduction of hydrogen to Extreme E has been a constant talking point since the news went public last year, and while hydrogen has some disadvantages compared to battery electric – efficiency being one of them – providing a platform to showcase hydrogen on a wider scale has its own merits.


Extreme E weighing up full hydrogen switch

“That is a question that we need to answer – do we do both battery and hydrogen, or do with one? I think being the only one has a lot of merit because there is an industry out there that is in need of a platform that they don’t have,” Agag explained. “So there is a big industry in hydrogen, many countries are betting big on green hydrogen production, many oil companies are betting on hydrogen and they cannot go into the battery championships – I mean, they go, Shell is with a couple of teams in Formula E, but there’s less connection.

“So there’s a whole ecosystem that lacks a platform, and if you have the only platform, that’s interesting from the business point of view and also the relevance point of view because what you develop here, you can use. And what I like about the hydrogen challenge is it hasn’t been done and there’s so many things we’re learning as we go, and that’s why we do motorsport, to learn.”

Agag also said that whatever form Extreme E’s hydrogen development will take, it will help develop technology for the wider world.

“We look for solutions and it’s very important that when you’re looking for solutions, to not listen much to the noise, because there is a lot of noise, and that noise is basically useless,” he insisted. “We just have to get on with it. We can develop know-how that can be used on a much wider scale.

“If we do a hydrogen car competition, we will develop know-how that will be used on a much wider scale.”

Extreme E’s hydrogen prototype remains on target for a July shakedown, with production of racing cars beginning before the end of the year.

“From October we will start production of the race cars, and we’re going to produce 10 race cars,” Agag confirmed. “That’s a fact. That’s happening.”

Story originally appeared on Racer