WE all know that F1 tech eventually drips down to road cars.
Downforce. Grippy tyres. Turbo-chargers and active suspension. Carbon fibre. KERS. Steering-wheel buttons.
They all started in F1, and they’re on the Mercs, Ferraris and Porsches you can buy in a dealership today.
But now F1’s biggest brains have a much less sexy job on their hands: Improving the range of electric cars.
I was having a chinwag with Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi and he told me a few secrets about the firm’s first electric SUV.
They designed it then sent it to the F1 team’s aero lab at Enstone, Oxon.
And it came back a few weeks later with 25km more range, which is absolutely huge in EV terms.
Manufacturers are investing billions in battery and thermal management systems but good old-fashioned aerodynamics will be just as critical to make EVs go further.
It also means we’ll see some proper Batmobile designs in the future.
Rossi said: “Aerodynamics and mass reduction are becoming competitive in terms of investment.
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“Ten years ago, it was only for supercars that you would put money into mass reduction — carbon fibre and stuff. We’re going to use it extensively.
“In the sporty SUV, there is an aerodynamic feature which came directly from F1.
“Our F1 dynamicists worked with our design officers to change the aero performance based on the flows we saw in Enstone and it increased the range by 25km.
“That helped us break the 500km threshold, which is important. We are now a bit further than that because we kept on working.
“The engineers at Enstone are super-experts in vehicle dynamics.
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“Using the wind tunnel and all of their F1 equipment, they provide a service that would be super-expensive for others but we can use it directly for our road cars.
“We are now looking at airflow circulating inside the doors, like veins. It won’t be adopted for this car but we are exploring some really cool stuff.”
Rossi also promised future models would have F1-style driver controls.
He said: “We want to connect all of our road cars to the sport.
“On the steering wheel, you’re going to have a little ‘OV’ button. Overtake. Just like in F1, they say on the radio, ‘Overtake is available’.
“It will give you an extra boost. Tap into the battery for a little amount of time, beyond what the car is supposed to give you.
“You will also have a ‘recharge’ button. That’s going to look like a recharge button on an F1 steering wheel, ‘RCH’.”
Before all that, Alpine will give us the A110 Fernando Alonso edition.
Rossi said: “We’ll make 32 cars to celebrate his 32 wins. Each will have a special plaque with the track he won.”
Other things I learned from our chat. First of all, Alpine is working on a hot version of the Renault 5, which returns as an EV-only supermini in 2024.
The “urban racer” will have two power levels, 170hp and 220hp, and a 0-62mph sprint time of six point something seconds.
Electric torque vectoring will help it corner like a go-kart.
Expect a range of about 220 miles.
Second, despite being a French brand, Alpine’s next sports car will be made in Britain.
Alpine is sharing an electric-car platform with Lotus and the A110 successor will be built by Lotus in Hethel, Norfolk, using Britishvolt batteries from 2026.
So that’s three EVs in the pipeline from Alpine: A supermini, a two-seat sports car and the sporty SUV, which arrives in 2025.
Codenamed “DZ110”, the SUV will have three e-motors pushing out close to 440hp.
If Alpine has called it right, sales could jump from 3,000 to 30,000 a year, turning the French connoisseur brand into a serious car maker.
The decision to build an Alpine in the UK will go down like a cup of cold sick with the French unions.
But Rossi said: “The SUV will be built in Dieppe. That is the crown jewel. We will need to hire more people for that.
‘Original funky stuff’
“The sports car doesn’t have to be made in France to be made the French way.
"It’s like a baby — conceived somewhere, delivered somewhere else.
"We will try to keep it as stripped-down as possible to keep the original Alpine DNA.
"We are not Renault or Peugeot or Volkswagen.
“But we are not Porsche or Mercedes either. We are nested in this sweet spot in the middle.
“So we can afford to provide cars that don’t have all the bells and whistles the Mercedes and Porsches of this world have.”
Alpine will stay in F1 for at least the next ten years.
As well as building a top-class LMDh (Le Mans Daytona hybrid) endurance-race car for next year.
As well as exploring Dakar with a hydrogen-powered buggy.
All pioneering tech that could filter down to everyday road cars
Rossi said: “You are not certain electricity is the only path. It could be synthetic fuels. It could be hydrogen, which I like a lot.
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“For larger vehicles, if electricity is not making the cut we might have some original funky stuff coming up in the future. Not just us, everyone.
“It might be 20 or 30 years from now until electricity will be enough for everyone.”
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