Why electric motorsports are a breeding ground for technophiles
IoT helps the Electric Racing Academy team embody the disruptive potential of a truly connected enterprise – in performance and sustainability.
At the Zolder circuit racetrack in Belgium, a purple and white vehicle speeds by with a whirr. It’s the Mitsu-Bachi F110e—an all-electric powered race car with a 130 KW motor allowing acceleration to 210 km/h.
Its purpose? Other than to win? It is to reimagine a 135-year-old sport into one that is sustainable, inclusive and democratized, with the world’s first fully electric entry-class, single-seater racing series established by the Electric Racing Academy (ERA.)
It’s not immediately clear what is the most impressive: the car, it’s creators—Dieter Vanswijgenhoven and Beth Georgiou—or the diverse mix of innovators.
Being technology-driven is not about cool dashboards, more data to analyze or even the ability to use insights to win. First, it’s about safer cars. Using a technology to understand every aspect of the car allows ERA to frequently alter it to be in the best physical condition, but EV efficiency means that less kinetic energy is released reducing the chances of dangerous accidents with more data on hand to prevent collisions.
ERA is using our Cumulocity IoT platform to connect the car to central control panel making this car an inter-connected, real-time, communication platform on wheels. Behind the carbon-fiber seat, there’s a box collecting data. This communicates with the cloud using 4G capability connected to the Cumulocity IoT platform.
For real-time accuracy, all the data on the car’s controller area network (CAN) bus gets collected by the edge controller, giving the team of data engineers a constant flow of operational insights like driving efficiency, regenerative braking function, cell activity and battery level. This empowers real-time analytics for real-time decision making where it matters, like racing performance and competitive advantage. Unlike traditional motorsports, certain analytics are also sent to the driver, and they can also be coached in real time.
“Think of the vehicle control unit (VCU) as the brain. The battery is the body, and the motor is the legs. And they’re all connected through a kind of digital backbone—that’s our IoT connection and 4G capability. This forms the electric power train that can all communicate with each other.” Dieter Vanswijgenhoven, Business & Technical Director.
Technology drives a better experience for the team and fans
All of the ERA’s cars are identical because they’ve been built on a formula 4 chassis and fitted to the same spec which levels the playing field in terms of affordability, accessibility and performance; This opens the sports up to all racers and teams to win on skill alone, not based on the level of sponsorship backing the car. This has blazed the trail for some “very cool” companies entering the scene testing solar-powered vehicles and even electric trucks.
Fans and spectators also have a different experience. Whirs replace roars in electric racing. And because the car is truly connected, fans can experience a fully immersive experience on race day. Using the ERA app, fans can select which cars they want to follow—with live race data about the car, and even a video live stream.
“Imagine if enthusiasts everywhere could follow a race on their phone and see technical data and predictions in real time. No one would miss out on the fun of a race just because they couldn’t be there in person.”Beth Georgiou, Sporting Director
You’d think the ERA has big plans to monetize this. It does not. ERA has an open culture based on transparency. And it is defying tradition. While data is normally regarded as super secretive (up there with intellectual property) in motorsports, the ERA has democratized the data to drive revolutionary changes in the industry.
The ERA wants to use its open platform to crowdsource solutions to modern problems. Take a recent project targeting logistic and transportation companies seeking to reduce tire use: This attracted a host of technophiles all pushing materials and technology to the limit, hoping to change the way a whole industry might one-day operate. And the next project is underway: This time a team is testing recycled-material body parts. It is a lot lighter but can this achieve better performance? Eco-warriors and nerds are working together to find out.
Once you hear Beth and Dieter’s vision for the ERA, it is clear it extends far beyond the realm of electric vehicle technology and motorsports. With its pillars of diversity, inclusivity, equity and accessibility, it aims to open their doors to everyone. ERA’s vision to support young, diverse talent ranges from initiatives to include more women, minority, and LGBTQ+ drivers to inspiring the next generation of world-changers at universities. In fact, the flexibility of electric vehicles means they can be adapted to suit numerous physical needs as well.
With all this in mind, ERA recently ran its first event with Racing Pride NGO and there’s talk of one day establishing driver scholarships to promote unseen talent.
“If people don’t see that they are welcome and that there’s a place for them, they won’t come to the paddock at all.” says Beth.
The ERA team embodies the disruptive potential of the truly connected world – both in performance and sustainability. From inside the car, to what’s around it and who’s around it, this environment is attracting innovators. Here you witness that sustainability is synonymous with disruption. And it’s alluring.
It is attracting those with a “can be done” attitude to what was once a “can’t be done” environment. And it’s not just motorsports that will reap the benefits. ERA may be a microcosm for a more equitable, open world.
You can watch a video to learn more about ERA and truly connected racing by clicking below.