The Mahindra Formula E team has released images of three new concept cars created in concert with legendary automotive design firm Pininfarina. The radical designs are meant to show fans a "potential form of Formula E in the future."
“Formula E is one of the most exciting signs of the changes underway in the automotive world as well as in motor racing," Fabio Filippini, the chief creative officer of Pininfarina, said in a statement. "Exercising our creativity on these sketches allowed us to imagine the evolution of this formula."
The three concepts — simply named "Concept A," "Concept B," and "Concept C" — share some common themes. Each car has an obvious emphasis on aerodynamics, with lots of smooth, sculpted bodywork that covers up the tires while allowing air to pass straight through the car instead of just around it. The biggest differences are really in the rears of each car; Concept B has a high tail wing with big aero scoops, whereas Concepts A and C have no rear wings at all. (Two also have fully closed cockpits, while one is still open.)
The designs aren't just a thought experiment, though. Formula E recently opened up a call to manufacturers to design a new chassis for season five, which begins in 2018. That single chassis will be used for three to four seasons, helping keep the cost of participation low while fostering the tight competition that has made the series great in its early days.
The Mahindra Group bought Pininfarina back in December 2015, but Dilbagh Gil, the team principal of the Mahindra Formula E team, tells The Verge this particular project didn't start until after the FIA issued the chassis request at the beginning of March. Gil says the Mahindra Formula E team was already collaborating with Pininfarina's engineers on next season's car (though he wouldn't say how, exactly), but the FIA's tender made the two sides want to extend the partnership into the realm of design.
Could a racing series look this radical in just two short years? For Gil, the better question is whether designs like these would be boring by the end of the new contract's lifetime.
"The main thing we were looking at was trying to steer the conversation towards getting a car which will still be relevant in 2022, 2023, which is quite some time from now," Gil says. "It needs to be fresh for a long period of time, and that’s essentially the challenge with these designs, while at the same time taking care of safety, taking care of the costs of Formula E, and ensuring it’s future."
Looking toward the future is basically the entire ethos of Formula E, with its all-electric cars, fan initiatives, and a separate self-driving racing series waiting in the wings. (In fact, these concepts look quite a bit like the Roborace cars.) But while the designs look extreme, Gil says they are "imminently achievable."
"These are not something that we have sort of struck out of fantasy," according to Gil. "There is a high degree of correlation between what we think technology can give us and what we think we can afford as teams in terms of chassis going forward. You’ve not seen radical ones yet."