Why EV Owners Should Be Excited about Formula E Attack Charge Technology

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Formula E Attack Charge Should Excite EV OwnersAnadolu - Getty Images

Say what you will about the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, it's a series that anyone with even passing interest in EV technology has reasons to keep an eye on.

Still in its testing phase, the latest performance twist—and race-to-road tech-transfer enhancement called Attack Charge—is in the testing phase. It promises a quick charge of an EV battery that can be completed in as little as five minutes.

With this weekend’s Tokyo E-Prix, the ABB FIA Formula E series will be closer to debuting its Attack Charge feature.

Attack Charge is a display of cutting-edge technology designed to help the EV consumer directly. It is meant to assure every EV owner of the capability of rapidly charging the battery in his street-legal car. It charges at a rate of up to 600 kW, considerably faster than the 250-350 kW that mark consumer-available fast chargers.


“It's so important [to remember] that the charger eventually will charge your car in five minutes,” Formula E co-founder Alberto Longo said of the breakthrough.

Williams Advanced Engineering supplies the spec recharging infrastructure, and series title sponsor ABB plays a key role in this latest advancement.

‘I have an EV. Should I care about Attack Charge?’

The short answer is yes. Formula CEO Jeff Dodds presented the case in three-fold fashion.

“In my experience, in our research experience,” he said, “there are three things that stop people from wanting to migrate to electric vehicles. The three things they worry about are the cars going to not perform as well and are they going to look a bit old-fashioned or not as exciting as a petrol or a diesel car? The second is the battery range: Will it last for long enough? And the third is ‘I worry about how I'm going to charge it up. Is it complicated to charge it?’

“So the reason Formula E comes to town is to show you when you've got a racing car that looks super-cool, that accelerates at two-and-a-half seconds to 100 kilometers (or 60 miles) an hour, don't worry about the performance of electric vehicles, because performance is not a problem. The second thing is we race for 45 minutes flat-out pretty much on a racetrack, so you shouldn't worry about the battery performance to range of the car. And the third thing is our cars, the fast-charging technology that we're able to showcase through our cars, should remove some of the anxiety people have about charging their own electric vehicles,” Dodds said. “So when we show up in town, it's simply to show people they shouldn't be worried about making the step to an electric vehicle.”

Julia Pallé, Formula E’s senior sustainability consultant, said, “When we created the championship 10 years ago, most people were not projecting themselves into driving electric vehicles. So we needed to break those barriers of acceptance. The range, in terms of the battery, was not yet there. We showcased that we more than tripled battery capacity. We've also showcased that electric vehicles can be something that is desirable. It's a very important element when you think about purchasing a car. You want to be enticed by the car. You need to have an emotion when seeing the car, and seeing those electric racing vehicles, 100 percent powered by renewable energy, energy makes a huge difference in your own projection to drive an electric vehicle.

“We use the races as a technological laboratory to advance electrification technology,” she said. “So you see the car manufacturers in the championship... are here to [take] the technologies from the garage and transfer it to the road cars to make sure that all of us tomorrow will be driving more efficient electric vehicles [with] better battery life infrastructure.”

ABB’s Adrian Guggisberg said Attack Charge “will be a strategic element from the sporting perspective, but again, always to showcase to consumers that this is a technology that exists, is now available, and will be rolled out on their streets. Now we've realized that the main barrier to adoption of electric vehicles is not in cities is when you and I, we want to go on holidays and we have to drive for eight hours and this is impossible to find a route that has enough chargers that will charge fast enough.

"You don't want to be stuck with your family for five hours while the car is charging. Who wants to do that? We need to showcase to people that the fast charger is out there and that you can stop at the station as much as fast as you [need to], charge the car, and then go back and finish short trip and go on holidays. That's why we're doing that.”

‘So, when will it be on track?’

DS Penske engineer Kyle Wilson-Clarke said he knows fans “are keen to see” Attack Charge, but that a couple of boxes need to be checked first: “It has to bring racing value, and there’s no point in introducing something, one, that’s potentially not reliable and, two, doesn’t bring racing value. Reliability is the first concern.”