How Jaguar is using Formula E to accelerate its electric reinvention

6 May 2023
Jaguar Racing Formula E Berlin

Jaguar joined the Formula E World Championship in 2015, choosing the world’s first all-electric single seater championship as it aligned with their visions and long-term product plans. And with it having finally confirmed it will launch a new electric luxury GT in 2025, the partnership is set to be fully realised.

With that new car marking the rebirth of Jaguar as an all-electric brand as part of a bold electrification initiative from parent firm JLR (formerly Jaguar Land Rover), the relationship of ‘race to road’ has never been more important.

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It’s more than a marketing gimmick, too. If you drive an EV, you likely have Formula E to thank for the improvement in these cars we’ve seen over the past decade. One example: the Jaguar I-Pace gained a software update that added extra range by reducing the time the cooling flaps were open, which was directly as a result of data gathered from the now-defunct Jaguar I-Pace Trophy.

And there are big benefits to come, given the extra technology in Formula E. Much like the Formula E race cars have progressed, gaining more powerful motors and bigger batteries from Gen 1 to Gen 2 and now the new Gen 3 cars introduced this year, the typical road EV powertrain technology has become more efficient, battery ranges have increased without excessive additional weight, and things like regenerative braking have become part and parcel of owning a premium EV. 

In Formula E, we’ve gone from seeing racing drivers having to swap cars mid-race because the batteries simply couldn’t last for a full race run, to more refined cars that are faster, lighter, and have a better power-to-weight ratio than we’ve ever seen in the series. 

Back in 2015, the core reason Jaguar chose to join Formula E was to use it as a form of real-world testing for electric technology. For a brand that has historically been involved in some form of motorsport for the better half of a century, it was a big statement to join not only in sponsoring a team, but as a powertrain manufacturer as well. 

We’ve seen plenty of manufacturers dip in and out of the world of Formula E, but Jaguar has remained, evidently seeing the benefits of utilising the racetrack as a testing ground – even when results weren't going their way. But the team is currently enjoying plenty of success with drivers Mitch Evans and Sam Bird frequently battling for wins.

While all the teams use a spec chassis and battery and maximum power outputs are set, powertrain development is open, so there's a real push to maximise efficiency to make best use of the energy available.

Team Principal James Barclay told Move Electric why he sees the championship as a valuable asset for the development of Jaguar Land Rover electric cars. “For us, the technology and racing of Formula E is genuinely hugely relevant to our road cars,” says Barclay. “We’re developing powertrains, electric motors, inverters, the software and the controls, and that's a fundamental part of what we need to do as a core engineering team for our future Jaguar or Land Rover electric cars. 

“I use examples like materials as well, so things like silicon carbide, and when it comes to how we design our future powertrains, the parts within them, or the software that controls it, it's absolutely relevant to what we're doing here. So that's why that's why we chose Formula E.”

The ‘race to road’ tagline for JLR isn’t anything new – long ago, Jaguar was the first manufacturer to widely adopt disc brakes after seeing their performance on the track. And for Barclay, he appears keen to retain that legacy of innovative engineering both on and off the track – partially by using the race team’s partners and their expertise.

“Some of our partnerships overlap – it isn't just us on our own, we’re bringing our partners in so the likes of TCS, Dow, Wolfspeed and Micro Focus are a critical part of the development,” he says.

“We have great people, but Wolfspeed has better scientists in silicon carbide, Dow has better scientists in terms of material sciences. Castrol, the experts in lubricants, they can give us a lubricants makes the car more efficient, and achieve sustainability at the same time as well. 

“So if you add these things together – I always say a problem shared is a problem halved – and innovation is the same. So whether it’s success on the race track or to make the best cars on the road in the future, it will come from important partnerships and that's pretty core to our visionary approach.”

During a turbulent time for the automotive industry, JLR is refining its vision for the future and fully committing to electrification  – hence its continued commitment to all-electric motorsport. And as Barclay puts it: “There is no better place for Jaguar to be racing at World Championship level.”

Going all-electric after a history embroiled in petrol cars is a big leap forward – but one that Jaguar will undoubtedly face with plenty of collaborative knowledge, not just from its partners, but from its successes and failures in Formula E.


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