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Porsche quits Le Mans’ top tier to join electric racing series Formula E

Porsche quits Le Mans’ top tier to join electric racing series Formula E


Going green at whatever cost

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Porsche is joining Formula E, the all-electric racing series, in 2019. The news was announced early this morning, and it comes just a few days after another major German manufacturer — Mercedes-Benz — said that it will join Formula E in 2019 as well.

To make room for the new series in its motorsport program, the German manufacturer will end its involvement in the prototype LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship (WEC), where it just won the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans. This makes Porsche the second major manufacturer in the top class of WEC to leave the series in favor of focusing on Formula E, after Audi did the same in October of last year.

Both Audi and Porsche are owned by the Volkswagen Group, which has been the focus of a major diesel emissions scandal for the last few years. But with fines and convictions being handed out, that scrutiny has now been turned to the Volkswagen Group’s sub-brands, as signs of the same kind of cheating has turned up there, too. In addition, last week the German magazine Der Spiegel published a report that alleges German automakers have been colluding since the 1990s on cheating diesel emissions tests.

Moving from a series that uses hybrid engines to one that’s completely electric could be a sign of a company looking to fix its public image. Or it could simply be the result of an enhanced focus on developing electric drivetrains. While Formula E teams all race the same car, the series allows the manufacturers in the sport to develop certain parts of the technology, like the gearbox, motors, and the inverter. Like many other carmakers, Porsche has pledged to build electric cars over the next decade, including a production version of the fantastic Mission E concept that was unveiled in 2015.

Either way, Porsche is joining a now long line of major car brands in the fledgling Formula E, which wraps up its third season this weekend in Montreal. Starting in 2019, the series will see Porsche compete against Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Renault, Mahindra, and more.