The ABB FIA Formula E Championship provides a test-bed - an Apollo program-like breeding ground - for the world's leading automotive manufacturers to develop their electric vehicle platforms to make them more intelligent and go further on every charge, through sporting competition of the highest level. On World EV Day, we're taking a look at how Mahindra Racing sits at the centre of Mahindra Group's global EV vision.
The combination of a world-famous automotive design house, Mahindra Group and chairman Anand Mahindra's vision, and the company's Race to Road technology programme spearheaded by Mahindra Racing, has yielded the most powerful road-legal hypercar ever to have come out of Italy - the zero-emission, electric Automobili Pininfarina Battista.
Less than five years after Mahindra made the decision to acquire the Pininfarina brand in 2015, and after a development period spanning just 24 months, Automobili Pininfarina was able to debut Battista - fulfilling the century-old ambition held by the brand's late founder Battista 'Pinin' Farina to see a Pininfarina-badged car on the road.
Three years after Mahindra's acquisition of Pininfarina, Automobili Pininfarina was formed. The high-performance sustainable sports car and luxury electric vehicle manufacturer is based in Germany, and forms part of Anand Mahindra's strategy to offer a full spectrum of EVs from a high-quality, affordable model through to a car designed to sit among the most prestigious hypercars on the market.
The Battista is a showcase of what EVs are capable of in their ultimate form on the road. There's a carbon fibre monocoque chassis, an electric motor on each wheel powered by a 120 kWh battery, firing the 1,900bhp monster to 100km/h in less than two seconds and it's able to travel 400-485km on a charge. Oh, and it can reach speeds of almost 360km/h at the top end, too.
Given Pininfarina is the company whose iconic style and design shaped every Ferrari to have left the Maranello factory between 1951 and 2008, the Battista was always going to be a looker.
Chief Designer Luca Borgogno said: “We wanted to keep the form and proportion of a traditional supercar, something in line with our history and true to Pininfarina’s values," with the car evoking a thoroughly modern take on 1960s design cues whilst housing its large T-shaped battery beneath and behind the seats.
It's the first in a series of limited volume vehicles that will be produced by Automobili Pininfarina. The €2 million hypercar is estimated to have a limited production run of 150 cars.
Exactly one year after the new company was introduced at the 2018 Rome E-Prix, the marque displayed the Battista alongside its technology cousin, the Gen2 Mahindra Racing Formula E car in Season 5.
As well as being a fantastic photo opportunity, of course, the launch illustrated the importance of Mahindra's Race to Road programme - a halo project for the auto-maker which demonstrates how key expertise from the race team can influence and benefit the development of products across the group's entire business.
Simulation, wind tunnel work, manufacture, energy usage, efficiency and deployment, composites, powertrain, and the cooling system all areas that the race team are able to influence, passing on knowledge gained in the heat of battle in Formula E.
"We can look at the technology and learnings from Formula E, which is at the forefront of the electrification of the automotive industry, and translate them into our other products."We are getting enormous technology feedback from the race track. Formula E is our laboratory in that sense and that is part of the reason we will succeed in high end electric vehicles."
Dilbagh Gill, who has been front-and-centre with Mahindra Racing since its inception in 2014 as CEO and Team Principal, explains.
“As leader of the Formula E team, one of my biggest priorities now is the Race to Road programme," said Gill. "When Mahindra Group acquired Pininfarina it was a very important step for us and we needed to get the product right to cater to the discerning customer.
"We can look at the technology and learnings from Formula E, which is at the forefront of the electrification of the automotive industry, and translate them into our other products.
“We wanted to leverage the strengths of our organisations. Both have a strong ecosystem and we want to focus on how to bring these ecosystems together and that’s why the partnership is important.
“We are getting enormous technology feedback from the race track. Formula E is our laboratory in that sense and that is part of the reason we will succeed in high end electric vehicles.”
“For me, it’s a dream come true to be involved in a project like this," added Mahindra Racing's test and development driver Nick Heidfeld. "In racing, things are developed earlier than anywhere else, so this is where we can bring expertise.
"It will handle well and be quick on a race circuit, although it’s not a track weapon. It’s more a hyper GT. It has to be fun for normal road driving and long distances, too."
Heidfeld's Formula 1 career spanned more than a decade, and in Formula E he was a regular on the podium for Mahindra. He's as well-placed as anybody to define the driving experience offered up by the Battista, and after a first taste in the simulator last year, he liked what he saw.
“Driving an early version of Battista in the simulator was an amazing experience," he said. "The preparation, set-up and execution of the first runs of a brand new hyper car with unprecedented levels of performance were excellent; comparable to any initial simulation sessions I ran in my motorsport career.
"Most impressive was how well the car handled. But of course, as I expected, the sheer acceleration is totally mind-blowing and incomparable with any car I have experienced, from road or track.”
Mahindra's 'Race to Road' philosophy goes beyond any one project, collaborating on other EV production and development with its own in-house companies Mahindra Electric and Mahindra Research Valley. The former's focus is on building a new EV platform, and the latter on research and development - with Mahindra Racing's expertise helping to accelerate processes across the group.
This collective effort has already led to additional large-scale Race to Road ventures including a high-profile strategic alliance between Mahindra and Ford on the American automobile giant’s EV models; including work on electric powertrains, batteries and software technology.
Published on 10th September 2020