Audi has announced that it is increasing its involvement in the Formula E Championship, as the manufacturer looks to develop electric vehicle technology for use on the road. The manufacturer already backs the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team in a semi-works role, but will up its involvement for the coming season before launching a full factory-team for the 2017-18 championship.
Joining the likes of Jaguar, Faraday Future, Renault, Mahindra, Next EV, and DS Automobiles, Audi’s increased presence further shows the championship’s potential as a development series, where systems tested on the track filter down to cars that the public can drive.
Audi already has large scale involvement in Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship – which uses advanced hybrid electric powertrains tested over extreme race distances – and Formula E will complement this programme. It is expected that developments from both racing teams will have a significant presence in road cars, something that Audi has an excellent track record with (excuse the pun) from its Le Mans programme.
Dr Steffan Knirsch, Audi’s technical development boss, says: “Electric mobility is one of the key topics in our industry. We intend to evolve into one of the leading premium car manufacturers in this field.
“By 2025, every fourth Audi should be an electric vehicle. The first model for this is planned to be an SUV we’re going to present in 2018. In the light of these plans, adapting our motorsport program and taking up a commitment in a fully electric racing series is only a logical move.”
Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, said: “Audi has consistently been using motorsport to test and develop new technologies further for subsequent use in production. With quattro drive we revolutionised rally racing and subsequently set standards in circuit racing as well. In the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi was the first manufacturer to have achieved victories with a TFSI engine, a TDI and a hybrid race car, so writing motorsport history on several occasions.”
The hugely successful team manager continued, saying: “Now we intend to repeat this in fully electric racing. Formula E with its races being held in the hearts of major cities is an ideal stage for this purpose and Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport a logical partner for us.”
The new season kicks off on the second weekend of October in Hong Kong, before taking in the likes of Marrakesh, Monaco, Paris, Berlin, and New York – all in city centre locations. A London e-Prix isn’t on next year’s calendar, but plans are being made for it to return – though not at its previous Battersea location – from 2017-18.