Mercedes-Benz has pulled the cover off its first ever all-electric racecar on the eve of the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. Dubbed the EQ Silver Arrow 01, which is a nod to the automaker’s flashy electric concept racecar, it’s what Mercedes-Benz will use to compete in EV racing series Formula E starting at the end of 2019.
Formula E was launched in 2014 as an all-electric alternative to Formula One and other gas-powered motorsports. What started as a relatively novel idea (other attempts had been made at electric racing, though almost none succeeded) has flourished into a sport with a legitimate, if modest, following. The series is currently in the middle of its fifth season, and it already pits a bevy of high-profile automakers against each other every month, including Audi, BMW, Nissan, and Jaguar. Porsche is also set to join the series starting next year.
© 2019 Handout MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – FEBRUARY 16: Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA), Panasonic Jaguar Racing, Jaguar I-Type 3 during the 2019 Mexico City E-Prix on February 16, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Andrew Ferraro/Jaguar Racing/Getty Images)
Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Nissan — Formula E has some of the biggest names of any motorsport. Mercedes-Benz announced it was joining Formula E back in 2017, and it won’t be coming into the series cold. It will take over a team that is already running in Formula E called HWA, which should help give the automaker — which is the reigning constructors’ champion in Formula One — get a running start. In fact, HWA used to run Mercedes-Benz’s racing team in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) racing series, which the German automaker left last year in favor of Formula E.
The EQ Silver Arrow 01 isn’t a racecar that Mercedes-Benz built from the ground up. Formula E tasked French and Italian outfits Spark and Dallara with building the chassis. Atieva (which is the battery company arm of EV startup Lucid Motors) built the 52kWh battery pack using Sony cells, and it was integrated by McLaren. All told, the largely spec car can generate up to 340 horsepower, go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, all with a weight of nearly 2,000 pounds.
But automakers in Formula E are allowed to develop their own drivetrains, including the electric motor, gearbox, and inverter — basically everything that connects to the battery. The series claims this provides automakers with a testbed for developing electric propulsion technology. It also neatly doubles as a marketing outlet for automakers who are embracing EVs, which at last count, includes almost all of them. (It also costs far less than most other motorsports, which is one reason Mercedes-Benz left DTM, and Porsche and Audi left one of the highest rungs of endurance racing.)
Mercedes-Benz says the car it’s showing off in Geneva this week is just wearing a “teaser livery,” which means that come season six, you can expect a much different paint job. But the current look features elements of the automaker’s new EQ brand of electric cars (in the bright blue trim) as well as the same pattern effect that Mercedes-Benz is using on its 2019 F1 car.
“Formula E is going to be a completely new playing field for us,” Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said in a statement. “But we are looking forward to the challenge of demonstrating the performance of our intelligent battery-electric drives in motorsport and of giving a positive boost to the EQ brand.”