The changing of the guards in motor racing is underway: both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz have announced they will join the FIA Formula E electric-car racing series in 2019.
To make that possible, both German teams will end their tenures in respected motorsport; Porsche will end its World Endurance Championship LMP1 program, while Mercedes plans to pull out of DTM (German Touring Car Championship).
The news leaves Toyota as the only factory team left in the LMP1 class; both Audi and BMW appear to be reevaluating their own commitments to the DTM series as well.
The announcements reflect the growing promotional importance of Formula E to automakers and for their future electric cars.
Formula E will ultimately give electric-car makers the chance to put their own battery and other electric-drive technologies to the test in competitive racing.
In Porsche’s announcement, it said its entrance into Formula E will bolster the company’s program to build pure GT vehicles and fully-electric sports cars.
The company’s first production electric model will be based on the Mission E concept car shown in 2015, a smaller four-door sedan likely to be priced below the Panamera sedan.
Porsche’s aggressive pricing strategy could put the production Mission E up against fully-specced Tesla Model 3 sedans—but what Porsche learns from its factory Formula E team will likely influence all of its future electric cars.
Formula E will make a few notable changes in its future seasons, which are likely factors that helped sway Mercedes-Benz and Porsche to join the motorsport.
The series will no longer require two cars per driver with the potential of a mid-race car change, as it doubles the capacity of the standard battery pack used by all teams.
Currently, Formula E teams must run four cars, but that requirement will fall to two cars in Season 5—a testament to improved battery technology since the series’ launch in 2013.
Additionally, Formula E race cars will receive a design overhaul and incorporate the latest cutting-edge technology.
Porsche and Mercedes-Benz will join Audi, BMW, Jaguar, and French electric-car maker Renault among others in 2019 when season six of the motorsport gets underway.
The series’ goal has long been to change the public’s perception of electric cars, and the entry of two additional and very prestigious German marques will clearly help in that regard.
With the entrance of Mercedes and Porsche, the total number of teams will climb to 12—a remarkable feat for the relatively new motorsport.
If the future is indeed electric, Formula E should provide a very public catalyst within motorsport to ensure racing always has a place.