The automotive industry is undergoing radical shifts towards electric solutions. Emobility has found its way into motor racing. Formula E has become a crowd puller and a real competitor to Formula 1. Tight city circuits, unique interaction with the audience and sophisticated techniques with the attack mode - this is how motorsport can look like in the 21st century. The competition is more intense in the electric racing series with even more manufacturers than in classic motorsport. Right in the middle of it and team of the first hour: Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. When the two drivers, Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, go out onto the track, ZEISS accompanies them during the race. The racing team relies on ZEISS metrology expertise and knowhow to meet the extreme quality and safety requirements.
In addition to standard parts, the racing series also includes some in-house developments such as the drive train or various chassis parts. Alongside the driving style, it is precisely these parts - and their perfect quality - that ultimately make the decisive difference in the battle for tenths of a second. Before a car goes on the racetrack, the performance and safety-critical parts are tested at the ZEISS Quality Excellence Center in Neuburg an der Donau. ZEISS has been measuring parts for Audi‘s DTM cars since 2012.
After Audi Motorsport took over sole responsibility for the Formula E racing team from the tuning company ABT in the 2017/18 season, more and more parts of the electric racing cars such as drive shafts, pressure plates and planet carriers are now also coming to the center. “Sometimes we get a delivery on Friday afternoon with parts fresh from the test track, which must then be measured by Monday morning,” says Carsten Gericke, Head of the ZEISS Quality Excellence Center. Both speed and precision are important in the race and in quality assurance. „The ZEISS team has a similar timing to our team,“ says Xaver Kraus. “Each individual brings a great deal of passion, stamina and team spirit to the race.”
How extreme the quality requirements in Formula E are is shown by the example of the drive shaft. It carries the enormous torque of the electric motor from the gearbox to the wheel carrier. If the shaft is out of tolerance by only a few micrometers, high forces are generated which can tear the shaft apart. “That would be dramatic,” warns Kraus, “because victory is not the only thing important to us. Our top priority is the safety of the d river.” The drive shafts are among the parts that ZEISS intensively inspects during initial inspection, kilometer inspection or crash testing. The experts at ZEISS went to the limits of what is physically possible, praises Kraus.
For Kraus, ZEISS is not just a service provider. “Technical development in motorsport is proceeding at a rapid pace, so we need a trustworthy technology partner at eye level.” The demands on the testing technology for Formula E will continue to increase. In the future, more and more technologies will be used, such as industrial computed tomography to detect blowholes in the casting or broken soldering that occur during vibrations. For example, there have been isolated failures of oil pressure sensors. The ZEISS METROTOM 1500 industrial computed tomography system made cavities and cracks in the materials visible, whereupon the supplier could repair the defects. “The experts at ZEISS bring a wealth of experience to the table and support us in interpreting the scans.”
Carsten Gericke‘s team organizes an annual Technology Day especially for Audi Motorsport and invites experts from the headquarters to inform about the latest technologies. This year, the team is devoting itself to the key topic of electric mobility. The exchange between the motorsport team and the developers of production cars for the road has always been lively. “Technology is changing rapidly. Therefore, a strategic exchange with technology partners is of great importance”.