Extreme accelerations, high torques and speeds – the first stage of Extreme E in Saudi Arabia has kept its promises to event organisers and fans worldwide. Continental also draws a positive interim conclusion from a tyre perspective on the performance of the exclusively developed CrossContact Extreme E and publishes a brief documentary on the partnership. The racing series is regarded as the biggest challenge ever faced by tyres in motorsports.
“It normally takes us two to three years to develop the perfect tyre for a specific application with its own requirements. In the case of Extreme E, we only had about half the time available. In fact, the vehicle was only available as a prototype because it was still in development itself,” says Catarina Silva, Team Lead Product Management Summer, 4x4 and Van Products at Continental Tyres.
The “ODYSSEY 21” racing car is an electrically powered racing SUV, 550 hp, and weighing 1.78 metric tons, which professional racers constantly push to the performance limit. This means unprecedented load on the tyres in motor racing. “There were fundamentally three major challenges in the development, in addition to the tight time constraints: The weight is high in comparison to other racing cars. A Formula E vehicle weighs only about half of this in comparison. At the same time, the torque is extraordinarily strong, as is generally the case with electric drives. The combination of these two factors results in an enormous load on the tyres,” Silva explains. “In addition, during development we had to take into account that the CrossContact Extreme E would work on the different surfaces of the racing venues - from the special requirements of the desert to the rainforest in the Amazon.”
In terms of tyres, the main difference between the electric drive and a conventional combustion engine is energy efficiency. When it comes to converting the motor’s energy into traction, the efficiency of a combustion engine is limited. In theory, there is no limit for an electric motor.
After thorough testing, the developers opted for the CrossContact SUV tyres as the basis and adapted the design to the challenges of Extreme E. For this purpose, Continental has modified the tread, adapted the rubber compound and strengthened its robustness. Since the tyre must deliver the same performance on all surfaces, under all weather conditions, the developers tested the CrossContact Extreme E extensively on various test tracks and different surfaces. “The development period was very tight. However, we have succeeded in completing many processes in parallel that would normally take place in classic succession. The entire development process was a great experience for the whole team,” says Silva. “We tested the tyre extensively before delivery. Nevertheless, there was a high level of tension within the entire crew before the first race. We are very satisfied with the performance.”
Continental and Extreme E also share values off the track
Extreme E first approached Continental in the fall of 2018 in search of an experienced tyre developer and strategic partner. The organisers also launched Extreme E to raise awareness among motorsport fans about the impact of climate change: “We were quick to recognise that the organisers’ vision fits in very well with our corporate philosophy,” says Philipp von Hirschheydt, Head of Business Unit Replacement Tires EMEA. “As a company, we are pursuing ambitious sustainability goals. But the focus should not only be on what we do ourselves. We also want to help create awareness in society about the challenges.”
The same applies to diversity: “Many years ago, Continental set up numerous projects and programmes to offer all genders in the company equal opportunities and give them the same visibility,” explains von Hirschheydt. “Therefore, it is very important to us to ensure that each Extreme E driver team comprises of one female and one male driver, both of whom spend an equal amount of time at the steering wheel.”
Continental publishes brief documentary
Continental has published a video documentary on the history of the partnership. The image material can be used locally and for an unlimited period of time as part of editorial reporting. Should you be interested in specific scenes only, please do not hesitate to contact us.
To download the video, please click here.