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Electromobility Under the Toughest Conditions

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Tags: ZeroEmissions, Emobility, Efficiency, Motorsport

ZF's partner team Venturi has started the new Formula E season not only with people's darling Felipe Massa. They're also competing with completely new, faster racing cars. For the first time, their electric drivelines were produced entirely by ZF.
Martin Westerhoff, December 18, 2018
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Martin Westerhoff studied technology journalism and writes about vehicles and technologies since then. He has a soft spot for motorsports and racing cars.
Asked about his Formula E ambitions, Felipe Massa plays down expectations. "I'm really excited, and I'm hoping to learn as fast as possible. I want to quickly become competitive so I can ultimately drive in the Formula E long-term," says the 2008 Formula 1 vice world champion modestly. However, during the season opener in Diriyya, Saudi Arabia, he ranked eighth out of 22 starters for a long time. The fact that he eventually finished his debut with a 17th place in the final results, was due to the unusual rulebook of Formula E rather than to his driving skills. The probably most famous newcomer in the purely electric racing series missed out on energy management and used the so-called fan boost too early – which the race directors sanctioned with a total of three penalties.
With ZF's support, the Venturi team prepared intensively for the 2018/2019 Formula E season.

Massa on fire for good results

Massa on fire for good results

For the next round held in the streets of Marrakesh, on 12 January, he is looking forward to doing better. “Overall, I really enjoyed driving the car and think I’ve shown my potential in Formula E. This weekend’s experience will serve us well for the next race. I’m eager to fight and get good results for the team”, Massa announces. After 16 seasons in the world's fastest formula category, he is now starting for the Venturi team alongside fellow driver Edoardo Mortara. This is "without a doubt the world's fastest-growing racing championship," says the long-time teammate of Michael Schumacher.

Four Formula E racing cars with ZF drivelines

Four Formula E racing cars with ZF drivelines

"It's not only about this racing series, but the attitude toward electric cars – everything's closely connected to ZF," emphasizes Massa. That's because ZF and Venturi have collaborated as part of a technology partnership for Formula E since 2016. What's new is that in this fifth season, they are using entirely new racing cars. Their cooperation so far covered racing shock absorbers and, since the fourth season, also transmissions, but now the Monaco team is counting on even more ZF expertise. For the Venturi VFE-05, the company has for the first time developed the complete electric driveline. It's the first of its kind that ZF has created purely for use in motorsports. Apart from a 250 kW (340 hp) engine, it comprises the power electronics as well as a single-gear transmission. Not only Venturi, but also German team HWA Racelab is competing in its Formula E debut season with vehicles of identical design – as a customer team of the Monaco outfit. That means the electric ZF driveline will feature no less than four times.

340
hp
is the maximum power output of ZF’s Formula E drivetrain.

Motorsports and volume production competence combined

Motorsports and volume production competence combined

"The speed of development in professional motorsports is extremely fast. Because the requirements for the overall system were unclear for a long time, we had to take many short-term changes and design loops into account in our development work," explains Tobias Hofmann, Technical Project Manager Electric Axle Drive Formula E. "In the end, our success hinged on good, Group-wide cooperation. In addition to the E-Mobility division, ZF Race Engineering and ZF Advanced Engineering also played key roles in the development of the driveline." This is how ZF efficiently and effectively combined the know-how of racing experts and volume production developers. The propulsion system is crucial in providing the crucial edge on Formula E's temporary city road race course. That's because the chassis, including all aerodynamic components in Gen-2 vehicles, is the same for all manufacturers and teams, unlike in Formula 1.

Palpable efficiency boost

Palpable efficiency boost

Another identical component in Formula E is the battery. However, these now have double the storage capacity of the Gen-1 vehicle batteries. So there's no longer any need for pit stops to change vehicles in the middle of the race. The technical regulations also limit the engine output, which makes top efficiency in power transmission to the driven rear wheels even more important. "In order to stay competitive in the fight for the best lap times, we once again significantly improved the transmission," explains Hoffmann. "With our new concept, we've been able to save as much as 40 percent of the weight compared to last season," says the Technical Project Leader. He adds: "Our new driveline also palpably boosts energy conversion efficiency."
"It's not only about this racing series, but the attitude toward electric cars – everything's closely connected to ZF".
— Felipe Massa, Racing Driver at Venturi Formula E Team

The race course as the acid test

The race course as the acid test

The inverter, which was also newly developed, is ZF's first power electronics product with high-performance silicon-carbide modules . The company plans to use this semiconductor technology also in volume production applications in the future. Instead of faster lap times, the purpose of the high efficiency here will be to extend the range of electric vehicles by five to ten percent with the same battery capacity. The power electronics control software represents a knowledge transfer from the road to the race course. It is based on years of testing in volume production and has been adapted to the special demands of motorsports. "Our classic core motorsports products such as shock absorbers and clutches have already made a splash. Now our new, electric ZF driveline will highlight our competence in top motorsports and, in particular, in electromobility under the toughest of conditions. Formula E is the ideal platform for this," explains Norbert Odendahl, General Manager of ZF Race Engineering. And the public's favorite Felipe Massa has also been bitten by the electromobility bug. "I'm delighted to be part of this evolution and new mentality."