Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against electric racing cars. I think that we must explore all the available technologies to try to find an answer not just to reducing pollution, but also in order to discover alternative forms of energy for when oil becomes more difficult to find.
I also believe that the fastest way to develop any technology - apart from warfare - is motorsport and so it is entirely logical that there should be electric racing.
The important question is to decide at what level of competition e-cars should be pitched. Alejandro Agag and his Formula E organization have decided to have a go at international level, on circuits built in city centres. This means that it is in the media spotlight and some have even tried to compare Formula E to Formula 1.
That is not a wise thing to do because while big names may help to draw crowds in the first year of a new championship, fan interest will not last long if the cars and the racing are not very exciting.
Thus it is interesting to see the Formula E testing that has been going on at Donington Park in recent days. Oddly, none of the reports I have read has made any comparisons with other formulae. The best FE lap set by Sebastien Buemi in his Spark-Renault SRT01E was a 1m31.083s.
Obviously, it is still early in FE development and direct comparisons are never easy because of the many variables involved: the quality of the FE drivers, for example, is higher than some of the other series, but then track conditions can change from day to day.
Notwithstanding the variables, the outright lap record at Donington Park at the moment is a 1m17.707s set last summer by Kimiya Sato in an AutoGP car. AutoGP is a series that uses the 2009 Lola B0552 chassis. The fastest British F3 lap of Donington was achieved by Alex Lynn in a Dallara in 2012 at 1m22.600s.
Other lap records worth noting are the FIA GT1 record, set by a McLaren MP4-12C at 1m28.023s, set by Frederic Makowiecki and the Formula 4 lap record of Charlie Robertson (1m31.603s) and the Formula Ford 1m31.73s, set in 2012 by Antti Buri.
At the moment, therefore, Formula E cars are lapping at around Formula Ford pace.
Speed is not everything, of course, but the other question that is key to the success of Formula E is how many laps the cars can complete using full power before the batteries run out.
The FE cars have six different power settings and we hear on the grapevine that the qualifying mode can only be used for a dozen or so laps before the battery is drained. This explains why the series is planning to have a car switch in mid-race, an idea which is somewhat flawed at it shines a spotlight on the weakness of the e-automobile.
It probably does not help teams that in the last couple of years the automobile industry has switched its focus away from wholly-electric cars and is concentrating more on hybrids.
Nonetheless, everything seems to be on schedule for the opening round of the new championship in Beijing on September 13, although new international rules about the transportation of batteries have caused a bit of a headache, as these are now having to be sent by sea.