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[Herald Interview] Racing toward a greener future

Head of Mahindra racing team says it is in talks with South Korean companies for battery development

It might look like any other Formula 1 racing car. But Mahindra’s Formula E vehicle, an electric racing car, is not just made for sports. It’s a moving lab for the Indian automaker that is betting big on green cars for the future.

Mahindra Racing, a racing car team under the Indian conglomerate, is one of the 10 founding teams of Formula E, a class of auto racing that uses cars powered only by electricity.

Touted as being green and entertaining, the Indian company has joined the Formula E series with an aim to become a leader in electric vehicles.

“Essentially what this means is that our learning from racing in Formula E are rapidly shared with the product development teams at Mahindra Electric,” said Dilbagh Gill, team principal and CEO of Mahindra Racing, a racing team under Mahindra Group, in an email interview with The Korea Herald.

Dilbagh Gill, team principal and CEO of Mahindra Racing, a racing team under Mahindra Group (Mahindra)
Dilbagh Gill, team principal and CEO of Mahindra Racing, a racing team under Mahindra Group (Mahindra)

“They use this expertise while developing the next generation of EVs and the transfer of technology is a lot quicker in the case of EVs as compared to conventional fossil fuel powered vehicles.”

The biggest and the most important component of a Formula E car is the battery which weighs 320 kilograms in total with 200 kilograms for cells, equivalent to 4,000 mobile phones.

The cars compete in a race that is normally around 100 kilometers, which is about 40 to 50 laps on average, the company said.

To head off the possibility of the car running out of energy, drivers switch cars about 25 minutes into a race.

“Formula E racing cars have a top speed of 225 to 230 kilometers per hour, depending on the layout of the race track while other racing championships using gasoline powered racing cars compete at speeds that are both below and above this figure,” he said.

To win a race, not only is the performance important, but efficient management of power is also key.

Mahindra Racing, a racing team under Mahindra Group (Mahindra)
Mahindra Racing, a racing team under Mahindra Group (Mahindra)

“The whole aim of the series is to get the most in terms of performance while keeping in mind the limitations with regard to battery power,” he said. “The team that is able to develop the most efficient racing package in terms of distance covered, speed and energy used is the one that wins races through consistent performance.”

As an amateur rally driver, Gill built his professional career in ICT and marketing. He joined Mahindra 12 years ago, and has led the racing team since 2014.

All teams currently use batteries made by Williams and a larger battery will be made by McLaren for season 5. The CEO, however, was open to working with South Korean battery makers in the future, considering the Indian company’s business expanding here.

“Korea is one the leading countries with regard to Lithium Ion battery technology and we are in discussion with a few organizations and are exploring areas of collaboration and business opportunity.”

Mahindra is the third-largest Indian carmaker and owns South Korean SUV maker SsangYong Motor.

By Cho Chung-un (