Partners in Discovery and Invention
When TE Connectivity (TE) agreed to become the lead technical partner to Andretti Technologies' Formula E racing team for season 2 of FIA Formula E motorsport, it started a journey of discovery for both companies.
Paul Webb, Global Product Manager, Autosport, TE Connectivity
Roger Griffiths, Director, Motorsport Development, Andretti Autosport, and Co-Team Principal, Andretti Formula E Team
This relationship is not new. For many years, the Andretti Autosport team has used TE’s DEUTSCH Autosport and TE's Raychem products in its vehicles for IndyCar and Indy Lights motor racing. Formula E racing provided the perfect forum for extending this relationship into a partnership that leverages the strengths of both companies and brings together teams of forward-thinking engineers to work together. As the newest and perhaps most exciting form of motorsport happening right now, Formula E racing offers many exciting possibilities shaping the future of motorsport. In trying to do something both different and relevant for the future of the automobile, Formula E racing has captured the attention of the major OEMs by addressing issues that have held back conventional motorsport, at a time when the social environment is changing and demanding more from those that participate and engage in the sport. It is into this new environment that TE Connectivity and Andretti Autosport are joining forces and sharing their knowledge.
As both companies discovered, TE Connectivity is about way more than just connectors and wire. This was highlighted when key engineers from Andretti Autosport and global representatives from TE joined together for an “Electrical Engineering Architecture Workshop.” During this workshop, ideas and knowledge were exchanged, giving both sides a far better understanding of the challenges of racing (Andretti) and the products and technologies available to other industries (TE) that could be applied as potential solutions for racing. So what did we discover?
Both companies are seeking to innovate, to drive technology, to compete, and to succeed. The use of the Formula E racing platform has been an ideal place to merge ideas and creativity. Ironically, Andretti has been using TE products and technology for many years with little awareness of where the components came from and the company behind it. TE has been in the background, letting their products speak for themselves. What has made this partnership exciting for Andretti is discovering the company behind TE’s products and the resources which it had available to offer.
As the world’s first fully electric racing series, the FIA Formula E championship presents unprecedented challenges to engineers. With 200-kilowatt batteries powering cars capable of speeds over 130 mph (210 km/h), every component could mean the difference between winning and defeat. Powering The Future, a collaboration between TE and Andretti Technologies, is the story of one Formula E racing team’s pursuit of victory in uncharted territory. Learn how TE is helping to bring Andretti Technologies’ car to the finish line faster.
The conventional approach is to try and take existing technology and make the best use of it. This involves adapting then technology to suit your installation or needs; but in doing so, the performance or potential of the technology is often compromised. Through its relationship with TE, Andretti has allowed the creativity and design process to move forward without artificial barriers hindering development. Often the limitations are not in the technology but the people behind it; fortunately, this has not been the case – both sides have taken an open-minded approach. It is not a case of “that looks impossible, we can never do that”; rather, it is more of “that looks interesting, I wonder how we can solve this?” This is a group of technology people getting together and talking about how to proceed, without the constraints or the limitations that previously held one back. Andretti provides the perspective of the challenge: the environment, the timescales, the opportunities for improvement, and the desired outcome. TE brings its knowledge of many engineering disciplines, of looking internally at the experience and resources, and often with an “out-of-the-box idea” of how a technology derived for some other application could be brought to bear to solve a motorsport engineering problem.
At a racing event, everyone there has a radio. During testing, the team can hear the driver – and the driver can (mostly) hear the team. But during the race, when you bring in all the other competitors, the officials, and fans, the airwaves get very busy and communication becomes difficult. What Andretti learned early on about TE is that it has a team of engineers who work on RF antennas and have deep knowledge about optimizing performance in crowded airspace. After working on understanding the way the IndyCar racing team operated, these TE engineers stepped into the hustle during a particular Formula E motorsport event in Long Beach, California to see what happens on race day. The result is that the team is now working to optimize the antennas on the car and on pit wall to get the best performance possible. In a traditional industry, this would often involve a larger or more focused antenna, but on a race car you do not want anything else sticking up in the airflow, as this will wreck the extremely refined aerodynamic package on the car. Building new antennas that are moulded into the bodywork of the car will give better performance for the spoken word and the speed of the car.
Al Jazeera News Network reports on the world of Formula E racing, during the 2016 race in Long Beach (CA, USA). The story profiles the TE Racing team, including Paul Webb (Global Product Manager), Robin Frijns (Driver, Andretti Formula E Team), and Ishin Ueyama (TE Field Application Engineer and TE Resident Engineer on the Andretti Formula E team).
As part of this partnership, TE positions an engineer within Andretti’s race shop in Indianapolis. Pretty much the first thing this engineer learns is that ”now” really does mean “now!” In racing, parts cannot be late – because a race will not be delayed if a car is not ready. An organization like Andretti – which competes in IndyCar, Indy Lights, Global Rally Cross, and Formula E motorsport – requires a huge amount of parts and data to remain at the cutting edge of each series. Some of the TE engineers were not used to the racing world; they quickly had a few eye opening moments which showed them what a strange industry racing really is. It is a business, an entertainment industry, and a sport, all supported by sponsorship, and all run by the rule makers. Here, planning is a luxury that often does not come easy. Because of this, the teams must evolve to act quickly – especially if new performance must be added to the car or if urgent repairs are needed after an accident. The TE engineer on the Andretti team is often involved at the deep end of getting the right actions in the place before packing his bag and attending the next event.
Powering the Future of Automobiles
This partnership is about cooperation, innovation, and real-world application. Many other companies have tried before – but not with this level of success. The ultimate satisfaction of this partnership is seeing the implementation and products deployed on the racetrack and incremental success that these bring. And this success is driving TE Connectivity and Andretti to continue discovering new solutions and co-creating the future of motorsport and automotive together.