Rumors were reported last week, but today the two sides made it official: Jaguar Land Rover is joining Formula E, the all-electric racing series. The automaker will field a team in time for the sport's third season, which starts in late 2016. This will be the first racing team run by Jaguar since it left Formula One after the 2004 season.
While Jaguar hasn't announced any concrete plans to develop a production electric car, the company isn't hiding its ambition with today's news. In a video released by Jaguar today, Nick Rogers, the company's group engineering director, says that "Jaguar Land Rover's made no secret about the fact that we will make electric vehicles." On the path to making one, he says in the accompanying press release, it makes sense to join a series focused on electric vehicles. "Formula E will give us a unique opportunity to further our development of electrification technologies," Rogers says.
"We will make electric vehicles."
Since (and even before) Formula E was born, this has been one of the big selling points of the series. By testing electric motors and batteries under extreme conditions on street courses around the world, the series could help advance the development of the technology. (The progress of this is hard to track from a distance, but the cars are running at a higher power during the second season, and for longer amounts of time.)
When the second season started this year, manufacturers were allowed to join the series to take part in this development process — and they did. Companies like Citroën DS, Mahindra, Audi, and Renault all entered partnerships with existing teams, providing them with electric motors or other powertrain components. McLaren is also involved, having originally helped the series develop the car from scratch.
Jaguar is able to join these manufacturers next season because one of the 10 current teams has officially retired. In a separate release, Formula E confirmed that the Trulli Formula E team is withdrawing from competition, leaving the series with just nine teams (18 drivers) for the immediate future. The Trulli team only had two top 10 finishes in the first season of Formula E, and this season was looking even worse — they missed the first race in Beijing because parts of the cars were held up in customs, and they were disqualified from the second when the cars failed to pass pre-race inspection.
Jaguar will take the place of the ousted Trulli team
Alejandro Agag, president of Formula E, said last week that two new manufacturers would join the series next season. Jaguar is one of these, but the other will likely be one of the manufacturers already involved with the series, because Agag said there are no plans to expand the number of teams. That means one of the automakers like Audi — which is owned by Volkswagen, a company that is in need of a good clean energy campaign right about now — could possibly take over the team that it's already working with.
In addition to all these new manufacturers, the 2016-2017 season of Formula E will also have a rather unique undercard series. Just a few weeks ago, the FIA announced that a new initiative called "Roborace" will pit a field of 20 autonomous cars against each other on the same street circuits where the Formula E cars compete.