Porsche has announced it will compete in Formula E from 2019, marking yet another car manufacturer to take the plunge into the all-electric racing series.
Development of the Porsche Formula E car is said to be underway, but it is unclear who will attempt to bring him the silverware from the roster of Nick Tandy, Neel Jani, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and André Lotterer during the 2019/20 season.
It was also revealed that Porsche will be ending its involvement in the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race at LMP1 level. The German manufacturer rejoined Le Mans in 2014 after a 16-year absence.
The move will be good news for Porsche’s Le Mans rivals because the prototype 919 Hybrid achieved pole position for the last three years and also managed to win the 2015 and 2016 FIA World Endurance Championships (WEC).
Porsche chief executive Oliver Blume said Formula E is “a perfect environment for advancing our cars in terms of economy, efficiency and sustainability” and that it is “a perfect fit for the Porsche product strategy”.
“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission E road car programme. The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us,” added Michael Steiner, a member of the Porsche research and development board.
Porsche and Mercedes are the most recent manufacturers to announce a move into Formula E, an all-electric motorsport that boasts inner-city circuits and more overtakes than Formula One. But its lack of engine noise has proven a turn-off for some.
The move may come as a shock to Le Mans enthusiasts, but it is hardly surprising when you consider Porsche is owned by VW and that Audi, another VW-owned company, quit Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship in 2016.
Porsche will join 11 manufacturers involved in Formula E including BMW, Citroen, Jaguar and Renault. Mercedes was set to join in 2018, but pushed entry back to the 2019-20 season, which will be the sixth since the competition started.
New-look Formula E cars will be introduced for season 5, which are able to complete a race on a single charge because of advancements in battery technology. As a result, teams will only be allowed two Formula E cars as opposed to the current four.
In terms of success at Le Mans over the race’s 94-year history, Porsche has won 19 times. Now it will only compete at the lower GT class level.
“To have a name like Porsche in Formula E, with all it represents in terms of racing and heritage ─ and in terms of sports cars ─ is an inflection point in our quest to change the public perfection about electric cars,” said Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag in an official statement.
“The electric revolution continues and Formula E remains the championship for that revolution,” he added.
The timing of the move into electric car racing is timely as the UK government just announced it will be banning sales of petrol and diesel cars (including hybrids) from 2040, making an electric car future considerably more likely.
No wonder, then, a number of car manufacturers have announced greater emphasis on electric and hybrid vehicles, including VW and Volvo.