The Electric Racing Academy in Zolder is shaking things up in the motorsport scene with the world’s first all-electric junior race series. What’s more, truly IoT car connectivity will create a digital experience away from the track as well. See how Dieter Vanswijgenhoven, Technical & Business Director, and his Partner Beth Georgiou, Sporting Director, launch the series for better inclusivity, sustainability and digitalization than established combustion race series.
It’s a cool, sunny November day at the race circuit Zolder near Heusden in Belgium. A few minutes ago, a Belgian police motorcycle squad was snaking through a challenging course of cones as it practiced difficult steering maneuvers. Now it’s time for their break. But something else is cruising along the asphalt and takes shape as it speeds down the home stretch. The police officers crane their necks in curiosity, poised with cameras in hand. It is yellow, fast and flat and comes with a hissing whirr. You might think a spaceship was approaching.
A spaceship approaching: all-electric powered Formula 4 race car
In actual fact, it is the Mitsu-Bachi F110e, an all-electric powered Formula 4 race car. Its 130 KW motor unleashes magnificent torque allowing acceleration to 210 km/h in a flash. A race with the car, priced at about €150,000, would last 20 minutes before the battery needs to be charged.
In the opinion of Dieter Vanswijgenhoven, who gracefully directs the F110e into the box at the end of the test drive, that doesn’t seem especially long, but it is definitely long enough. He calculates that 20 minutes is a great length for a race with 10 to 12 drivers.
Beth Gerogiou, about to test the Mitsu-Bachi F110e
His business partner Beth Georgiou agrees. They are launching the world’s first all-electric junior racing series and hope to offer better inclusivity, sustainability and digitalization than established combustion race series. Those were their reasons for founding ERA, the Electric Racing Academy. The startup employs a cutting-edge IoT solution for connectivity with cars which creates a digital experience away from the racetrack as well. The opening season will kick off in summer 2022. “The time is right,” says Beth.
Dieter Vanswijgenhoven, co-founcer of the Electric Racing Academy, gracefully directing the F110e back into the box
Inclusive, diverse, innovative
Later, in the pleasantly warm racetrack visitors’ lounge, the two entrepreneurs discuss their motives over coffee and cookies. “I am convinced that we can bring about some really positive changes to motorsports when it comes to sustainability and diversity,” remarks Beth, who grew up near the Silverstone track in England and has loved car racing as long as she can remember. Climate change is an important aspect to Beth and Dieter. “We are also setting goals for ourselves to improve as an organization, such as using renewable energy and offering fans an alternative to plastic in the paddock.” She is aware that this won’t be an easy task.
“Sharing our intentions and successes openly and honestly is a good way to get the conversation started in a sport that isn’t exactly known for its sustainability.” (Beth Gerogiou)
ERA aims to keep obstacles to a minimum so as many people as possible can participate in racing, explains Dieter. After having spent his teenage years speeding around the Zolder track in Renault Clios and Meganes, motorsports have been an integral part of his life. “Our vision is to establish a pool of young talent—drivers mechanics, engineers—who encourage, motivate and challenge each other and can work their way up to the top echelons of racing if they so wish. ERA is also intended to be accessible and inexpensive for small and mid-sized businesses that want to showcase their innovations.
“Many of today’s innovative ideas and products come from small and mid-sized companies and startups. We can include them in a sport where they can test their products under real conditions and receive immediate performance data.” (Dieter Vanswijkegnhoven)
Race data: live and digital
Data and connectivity: ERA considers both to be essential to the success of the project. The startup has therefore opted to employ IoT connectivity with race cars and cloud information storage and analysis. This is possible thanks to Software AG’s Cumulocity IoT platform. “A good strategy is extremely important to teams and drivers in EV racing,” explains Beth. Real-time data is key to determining if a strategy is working during a race. “That’s why we chose to connect cars to the IoT platform. It gives the teams in-depth insight about the condition of the car at all times and lets them react accordingly during a race.”
Dieter and Beth checking race data
But that’s not all. Dieter describes the other plans they have in the pipeline, “We are working on connectivity to race data through an app, which could give way to a whole new level of fan engagement. Imagine if enthusiasts everywhere could follow a race on their phone and see technical data and predictions in real time. No one would miss out on the fun of a race just because they can’t be there in person.” Especially young fans, well versed in the world of gaming, might be very excited by this prospect.
The groundwork for ERA is laid. The new series will kick off next year and interest is high. Beth adds, “First, I think ERA is attractive to sponsors because of the price. An EV is more cost-efficient due to lower overall maintenance. Second, we are currently the only entry-level option for young drivers and therefore very much in the public eye.” Dieter adds a third point, which is the decisive trend toward e-mobility in general with many companies realigning their marketing and sponsoring activities with sustainability in mind. They could see ERA as an exciting opportunity.