Formula E battery suppliers are set to implement a number of safety changes following the fire incident at Valencia pre-season test.
Supplier of Formula E spec batteries, Williams Advanced Engineering intends to change the manner in which it handles and conducts the maintenance of the supplied rechargable batteries.
The WAE report, which details the results of a forensic investigation into the fire that forced the evacuation of the pitlane and a day and a half postponement of the Valencia pre-season test has been made public according to The Race.
The incident happened on the afternoon of October 24 following Valencia’s first three hours of action. Robert Shwartzman’s DS E-Tense FE23 encountered an issue with its rechargeable energy storage system (RESS), resulting in the car stopping on the track and had to be recovered to clear the circuit.
Strict safety procedures were followed as the car was transferred to a quarantine area, and the battery unit was securely detached from the car. However, WAE and FIA officials found that they were unable to establish a connection with the RESS through the battery management system in this particular zone.
WAE has confirmed that a contactor—which is typically used to turn an electric circuit on or off—was the source of the initial problem that caused Shwartzman’s stoppage on the track. This comes after the RESS was deemed high-voltage safe before being relocated to the WAE garage, where the fire occurred.
The investigation into the specifics of the first RESS fire in Formula E in almost ten years generated a number of recommendations for immediate action, one of which was to replace the contactors on all of the teams’ RESS units.
There will also be new protocols that take effect, such as the publication of safety limits and contactor temperatures. Additionally, Formula E teams have been given notice by WAE that modifications will be made to the safeguards protecting the battery management system (BMS).
This implies that any loss of communication with the battery management system will be indicated by a red light in the quarantine area as well as in WAE’s official garage. Further improvements will be made over time, such as factory-based RESS testing and sign-off with a pass/fail limit determined by contactor temperature.
Changes to the trackside RESS working location and procedure are scheduled to take effect in January for the first 2024 round in Mexico City as WAE and Formula E Operations collaborate to make the improvements work.