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Technology and Innovation: EGP is Speeding into Formula E

5 min.

Technology and Innovation: EGP is Speeding into Formula E

Enel is the Official Power Partner of the world championship of electric cars. In the 2016-2017 season, we are powering vehicles and circuit spaces with renewable energy, to transform future ePrix into totally CO2-neutral events. A double interview with Lorenzo Rambaldi, Innovation Business Opportunity manager, and Luigi Lanuzza, head of Storage Innovation.

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Powerful cars, able to go from 0 to speeds of 100 Km in 3 seconds and to go over 225 Km/h. They're as good as the Formula 1 race cars on the track of the Bahrain GP for the latest chapter of the battle between Vettel and Hamilton, Ferrari and Mercedes.

They are the cars of the Formula E, FIA world championships for racing cars powered exclusively with electricity, of which Enel is an Official Power Partner.

Compared to its older sisters that, following Melbourne and Shanghai, now race on the circuit in the Sakhir desert, the Formula E cars can boast two unique features: they are 100% sustainable and they don’t use fuel, but renewable electrical energy.

Lorenzo Rambaldi, Innovation Business Opportunity Manager, and Luigi Lanuzza, head of Storage Innovation, are members of the Enel Green Power team working with Formula E in order to make each event of the circus increasingly CO2 neutral, thanks to the best technological solutions from Enel in terms of renewable energy production, smart metering, energy management, storage and infrastructures for electric vehicle recharging.


How did the collaboration between Enel Green Power and Formula E begin?

L: About a year ago, Enel announced its entrance into the world of the FIA Formula E, becoming an Official Power Partner. The spirit of this competition is clearly oriented to renewable energy and sustainability, so the involvement of Enel Green Power is easy to understand. By participating in Formula E we want to promote sustainable mobility, but also experiment with and promote new commercial opportunities that we think will be very interesting.


How does EGP participate in the organisation of the individual ePrix?

R: Formula E can be defined as a real “travelling village” that is set up very quickly each time. At every single stop, the organisers create a small city over just hours or at most a few days, so EGP has to provide all the energy infrastructures necessary in a limited amount of time. Here our microgrids come into play, which are also itinerant.


What tools have we implemented?

R: We provide equipment and services, but we also deal with the overall energy management of the microgrid. Formula E asked EGP to make every event of the circus CO2 neutral. Currently, with 5 kW of photovoltaic and a 12 kWh storage system, we have managed to make a part of the village, the gaming area that holds incredibly realistic racing simulations, entirely independent and powered exclusively by renewables. But the project was launched recently and this is only a small example of what we will do in the future in New York.


We’re talking about 15 July when the Brooklyn ePrix will take place…

L: Exactly. In the second step of the project, we developed a system together with Demand Energy Network [the USA company specialised in software solutions and energy storage systems acquired by EGP in January, ed.] for the use of a storage system to support the recharging infrastructures of the race vehicles. A big step forward that will lead to further developments in the future.


How does the recharging of the Formula E electrical vehicles happen now?

R: Through generators powered by glycerine provided by the British company Aquafuel. It is basically a glycerine combustion process in generators similar to conventional diesel generators that allow for the production of renewable energy with a biofuel and therefore with no overall emissions, but with some critical issues. Compared to a normal diesel generator, in fact, the Aquafuel system is decidedly slower and less dynamic, so it’s not so well-matched with the fast pace of each phase of Formula E. What’s more, these generators must work in a fixed spot for their full potential, alongside resistive load banks that have to balance the microgrid.


How do our microgrids work?

L: They are powered by the glycerine generators of Aquafuel Research Ltd, a British research firm and supplier of Formula E, and by the grid of local distribution (when available), but they are supported by a storage system that conserves energy when there is too much and releases it when it is necessary. In this way, we reduce all waste of renewable energy, allowing Aquafuel to work with maximum efficiency.


And what will the future developments of this collaboration with Formula E be?

R: The developments we have planned are going to radically change the current situation of Formula E. The the moment, every race includes a mandatory pit-stop when each driver must start again with a second vehicle with a full battery. From the fifth season on, this won’t happen any more, because there will be new, more powerful batteries that will allow drivers to do an entire ePrix with just one vehicle. Obviously we will need a different, more powerful charging system for all the vehicles that, according to FIA rules, must be recharged simultaneously.


How will we manage to provide so much energy in such a short time?

L: Together with Formula E, we’ve come up with an innovative solution. The Aquafuel will be used to recharge storage earlier, which will then, simultaneously with the generator itself, give energy to the racing vehicles. In this way, we avoid the use of diesel and all the imperfections of Aquafuel, creating significant operational savings.


What does it mean for EGP to face such a demanding challenge?

R: Formula E is an unprecedented testing ground, where EGP can provide a reliable and precise service in limited amounts of time. This allows us to develop solutions that can be allocated not only to motor racing, but also in many other contexts.


For example?

L: We’re certainly thinking of applications for the Commercial and Industrial industry, of generation systems in microgrid for remote sites in conditions of weak grids or without grids, but also of emergency situations and any context where it’s necessary to bring energy quickly. EGP is even able to reach places where a noisy and polluting diesel group would only get in the way.

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