India witnessed its first-ever Formula E championship in Hyderabad last weekend. We had a brief chat with James Barclay, Team Principal of the Jaguar TCS Racing, ahead of the E-Prix. He addressed the key topic of the Formula-E ecosystem, racing, technology and, most importantly, the synergy between TCS and Jaguar Racing.
TopGear: How does it feel to be a part of the team since its inception in Formula-E, and what do you think about - how a championship, along with technology, has progressed since then?
James Barclay: It's been an incredibly exciting journey so far. The first generation of Formula-E was all about proving that we could race electric vehicles.So In the initial four years, Formula E established itself as a fascinating motorsport. Technology has evolved at a rapid phase. Earlier in the Gen1 car, a driver had to swap the car midway through the race. Then in Gen2, battery and powertrain technology evolved with more power and efficiency. Power went up to 250kW, weight was reduced, and technological advancement was immense, thus establishing Formula-E as the pinnacle of electric motorsport. Now, the Gen 3 has brought in a new era, with the car producing 350kW and using regenerative systems at both the front and rear to regenerate more than 600kW of power during a race, which is almost 40 per cent of the total power being produced itself by the car, which I think is the big step up in the innovation and technology.
The car is now more challenging to drive. More power, and that too without traction control, so the driver now plays a significant role in optimizing the car's performance. The racing car is also more sustainable than before. Hence the boundaries have been pushed to make the championship more unique. We are in the first era of Gen-3, and the coming four years look incredibly positive, and with the world changing with more adoption of electric vehicles, the future of Formula-E looks incredibly exciting, and we expect it to have more global presence subsequently.
TopGear: Do you think Formula-E will be as famous as F1 five years from now?
James Barclay: Firstly, I really admire Formula-1, it's a phenomenal sport. Formula-E is just 8 years old, thus making it a startup compared to Formula-1. However, mobility around the globe is taking a paradigm shift, wherein in many countries, one can not sell ICE cars after 2030. So, Formula E has the potential to be as exciting as Formula-1, but for now, it's too early to predict anything, so only time will tell or script the story for Formula E.
TopGear: How beneficial and critical has TCS played its role in advancing the technology for simulation, data, track analysis, BMS, temperature management and software in general?
James Barclay: Firstly, we are privileged to have TCS as our title sponsor. It's an incredible company. We are eager to work with TCS for the Digital-Twin technology, which helps twin physical cars digitally. Formula-E is unique, wherein we race at the street circuits rather than track circuits. Hyderabad- we are racing here for the first time. Now, being here in Hyderabad for the first time, we have only got the free-practice session for physical practice. So, in order to up our game, we have to practice in a digital world. Therefore Mitch Evans and his team work together to make a digital model of the car as accurate as possible to the actual car. Everything from the powertrain and tyres to the tarmac - all these things are modulated carefully. So, when we perform all this in the simulator- it all needs to be accurate from performance and energy points of view. The more accurate the data will be, the better we can perform. And that's where the capabilities and expertise of TCS make the difference. The level of accuracy and feel-and-feedback from the simulator is critical to attaining motorsport excellence, and that too in Formula E because it's been raced on the street circuit.
TopGear: You are racing in the Hyderabad street circuit for the first time. How different do you find the Hyderabad track as compared to other street tracks around the globe, and what challenges do you think you might face on the track?
James Barclay: We must be adaptable to discover new things and learn from them. Hyderabad has the incredibly best combinations of long stretches and turns. It has fast straights, so the car's top speed will be incredibly high while approaching the corner. The drivers have to turn and brake and lose it, so they deal with all three things simultaneously, making it complex to execute really well. So if you look at the ultimate qualifying performance, the track's complexity will make it challenging for the driver. The asphalt temperature is expected to be around 35 degrees Celsius, which means we have to manage high tyre temperature along with the battery temperature, adding a further layer of complexity.
TopGear: Do you think fan boost was a fair addition, or is it a bit gimmicky to gain an audience for the sake of involvement?
James Barclay: It was there in the championship for eight years. I don't think it was gimmicky. It was a fantastic addition. But in the end, we run a sport, and now we think it has served its purpose of the time. For the first eight years, it was an excellent opportunity to have a fan boost to attract fans, but now we have a new generation of Formula-E cars, and a Championship is so much happening that we don't find Fan Mode necessary.
TopGear: What car do you drive on a day-to-day basis?
James Barclay: I'm fortunate enough to drive all the cars from the JLR group, and I call myself lucky enough to have experienced our entire lineup of cars.
TopGear: Any specific technology from Formula-E cars you would like to see on conventional road-going vehicles?
James Barclay: Formula- E is the real-world test bed for future technologies to come on the road-going cars, and there are many aspects of it - the powertrain technology in terms of the hardware, including motors and inverters. I will give you an example- the whole software space, where TCS makes a significant impact, will be more relevant to future production vehicles. Why? Because every race, we update the software to maximise the performance. So, in future, it will be like telephones, wherein with every software update, it becomes faster and better.
In 2017, we started working with a company called Wolfspeed which makes Silicon Carbide. It's a material we use in the inverter. Last year we announced the future JLR cars would use Silicon Carbide technology. So it's a perfect example of how the technology we tested in Formula-E benefits road cars. So, as a company, we work together to innovate and implement new technologies in race cars that can have the potential to improve road cars.