This weekend saw Formula E roll out a new safety car at the Santiago ePrix. As in seasons past, it’s based on the BMW i8, but features a number of upgrades to keep it out ahead of the electric racing pack.
Those start with the enhanced powertrain that BMW rolled out for the road-going i8 coupe and roadster. A 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine now produces 231 horsepower, with another 143 from the upgraded electric motor and a bigger 11.6-kWh battery pack. The combined 374 horsepower is enough to send the plug-in hybrid sports car to 60 in 4.4 seconds, traveling 33 miles between charges on electric power alone.
There’s more to the new i8 safety car than what BMW’s put into the road model, though. It also features a stiffer suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes, the bucket seats from the M4 GTS, four-point harnesses, a full roll cage, and a carbon-fiber aero kit. The safety car also wears a unique livery and emergency lighting on the roof.
The most intriguing element, however, may be the inductive charging system. Instead of having to plug the car in to charge, the driver simply parks it on top of a special plate and the vehicle charges itself back up. The technology is provided by sponsor Qualcomm, and can full the battery pack up to 80 percent in just an hour.
“Thank you to BMW i for bringing such a great livery on my new Safety Car,” said the series’ designated safety-car drive Bruno Correira. “The new seats and the roll bar make the new car a little bit lighter than the old one. The performance and the size of the battery have been increased. All in all driving the car is great fun.”
The car was deployed early in the race after a number of cars crashed on the opening lap. But it wasn’t the only new Bimmer on hand for the event in the Chilean capital. As the series’ “official vehicle partner,” BMW also provides a couple of i3s as medical and race-control cars, and an X5 xDrive40e to serve as a more robust rescue vehicle.