Just Electric

Why electric series need to take a leaf from Andros’ book

The Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy’s cancellation was somewhat inevitable. It was expensive to run in, there was no real career progression, and the cars were not suited to Formula E tracks. There is no way to deny the I-PACE races were no where near as exciting as their Formula E counterparts, despite the fantastic presentation and broadcasting work.

That’s not to say an electric saloon car championship wouldn’t work. It won’t be too long until we get one. But it shouldn’t be an electric saloon car championship. It should be a saloon car championship, where the cars are electric.

We’ve reached the point in motorsport’s electrification, where we shouldn’t be making new electric series. Instead, it’s time to integrate electric cars into existing championships, or convert existing championships to electric power.

The Andros eTrophy was the first series to really do this. The French rally cross on ice championship has been going since the 1990s. It’s not exactly World Rallycross, but it gains attention from some pretty big names, including at least four Formula 1 drivers.

In 2009, the championship ran an electric class. That is, it ran something like a support series, with electric cars competing in their own finals and super finals rather than against combustion powered cars.

There were eight competitors in this class for the 2009-2010 season, which was won by former Renault e.dams driver Nico Prost. Entries were consistent and it ran up until the 2018-19 season, when there were roughly nine entries per round.

Then, late last year, the series announced the 2019-20 season would be fully electric. It was a big step, and no doubt a risk. While the electric class had proven to be exciting, there was a much larger interest in terms of teams, drivers, and fans in the combustion powered Elite Pro. There was every chance they wouldn’t be on board with the switch from gas to electric.

Yet, many did. Most of the regular drivers in the 2018-19 season returned to the series to do it all again the following year. And the racing was once again incredible. The series proved electric cars could be just as exciting and competitive as combustion powered.

It’s unfair to compare Formula 1 and Formula E. It’s unfair to compare MotoGP to MotoE. It would be unfair to compare “electric touring car championship” to WTCR. While at a glance they seem to be the same series with different engines, there are many differences between each championship and its “electric counterpart”. Everything from race formats to development.

But the same problem doesn’t arise with the Andros Trophy and the Andros eTrophy. The only difference between 2018-19 and 2019-20 was the engines. It’s only here that fans of a series can see the actual difference electrification would do, and decide whether or not this difference is something they can get onboard with.

Of course, the Andros template isn’t one that would be easy to copy by world championship series with manufacturers and multiple parties’ interests to consider. But with everything from DTM to WEC losing manufacturer interest, it’s time to at least consider taking a leaf from Andros’ book and integrate electric cars to existing series.

Image credit: Bruno Bade

Bethonie Waring

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