Recently rebranded French car manufacturer collaborates with Sir Richard Branson’s team on electric racing campaign
Matt Burt
27 June 2015

Citroën’s standalone DS Automobiles brand is to enter the FIA Formula E electric racing series after joining forces with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing team in a multi-year deal.

The DS brand, through its motorsport division, will assist with research and development of the single-seater racing car, and Virgin Racing will provide the design strategy. The new tie-up will result in the formation of a new team called DS Virgin Racing.

Yves Bonnefont, chief executive of the DS brand, said: “The engagement of the DS brand in Formula E with Virgin Racing is fully consistent with the brand’s positioning. We fully share the values of Formula E: avant-garde technology and proximity to the public.

“The experiences that we will accumulate thanks to the races are key factors for us in the improvement of our technology directly serving our customers.”

Bonnefont explained that there were two key reasons why DS has embarked on a Formula E project: the first being to reach out to potential customers and the second to drive forward electric vehicle technology.

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The Citroën DS5 is a handsome hatchback designed with a premium feel, but doesn't back up its road presence with a refined ride

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"Formula E races in the cities and the global development strategy of the DS brand is based on the 200 megacities in the world. It brings an opportunity for us to go and meet our customers where they live," he said.

DS is spearheading the PSA Group’s move towards hybridisation and pure electric vehicles, emphasising its premium status and role as technology leader among the brands, which also include Peugeot and Citroën.

“We want to advance the technology. We have already started with hybrid, with the launch of the DS5 Hybrid4 in 2012. We have also announced a plug-in hybrid and that we are working on a pure electric.

“This is the direction in which we want to move and we think motor sport is the number one place in which to advance the technology. It puts pressure on the development teams to move things forward, in particular with the batteries themselves to improve the range and the energy density. This is a driving force for us.”

The PSA Group has previously stated its intention to start its roll out of pure electric vehicles at the bottom end of the markets in which its brands operate, using its CMP platform as a base. This suggests that an electric version of the DS3 hatchback could be in the works. A concept version of such a car, the DS3 Electrum, was shown at the Paris motor show in 2012.

DS Virgin Racing will compete in the next 2015/16 Formula E Championship, which will begin towards the end of this year.

After running as a one-make championship this season, Formula E will become an open series in 2015/16, allowing manufacturers to pursue their own in-house innovations, beginning with the development of bespoke powertrains.

Virgin Racing team principal Alex Tai said: “Our collaboration with DS is not only a partnership between two amazing brands, but is a great opportunity to showcase our intent of winning FIA Formula E championships. In addition, it highlights our ambitions to be at the forefront of pioneering new technology in Formula E to aid the technology transition to road cars."

The new deal was announced at the Formula E event in London’s Battersea Park today.

Branson said: “I’m thrilled that Virgin Racing is playing a leading role in another of Formula E’s visions, that of attracting the large automotive OEMs into the sport in order that the technology that is developed flows down into the cars that we can all drive.

"I have no doubt the partnership will prove a great success, not only on track but also in providing a catalyst to develop the electric vehicles of the future.”

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Our Verdict

DS 5

The Citroën DS5 is a handsome hatchback designed with a premium feel, but doesn't back up its road presence with a refined ride

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week