QEV Technologies: Getting to know a leading electric motorsport firm

It ran Nelson Piquet to Formula E’s inaugural title, Mattias Ekstrom and Laia Sanz will race for its Extreme E team this weekend and Sebastian Vettel is just one of the world-class racing drivers that raced its rallycross car in the last edition of the Race of Champions. Behind them all is QEV Technologies, one of the world's leading electric electric motorsport companies.

QEV Technologies is based in Montmelo, Spain, close to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Right behind its majestic main grandstand is a three-storey building and a workshop where over 120 engineers and mechanics work in the development of electric prototypes that race all around the world. One of its most exciting projects is a brand-new electric single-seater series that will be a reality in 2024. Still, many projects already are and achieve remarkable results.

QEV Tech has evolved through the years. At first it was focused on the management of sporting projects, but it steadily steered its activity towards applied engineering to create first-class electric products. Some have even reached the open roads, such as the Hispano Suiza electric hypercars Carmen and Carmen Boulogne or the impressive Cupra UrbanRebel Concept, in whose platform QEV has been actively involved.

Joan Orús, QEV founder and CEO, describes it as a “development centre for electric mobility” where the lessons learnt at the racetrack are transferred to products that make it to the open road. The transfer of knowledge and technology is instantaneous. The rotation of staff between the different areas of the company is so intense that an engineer can be attending a rallycross event on Sunday and the very next day be working in the software of a hypercar or a commercial vehicle, given that QEV will soon be entering that market under its Zeroid brand.

“We are competing right now in every single electric championship there is,” says Orús, whose first project when he founded QEV was a solar prototype that he drove across the salt lakes of Australia. “We have been involved in Formula E since the very beginning and we are currently helping the Andretti team. We race in Extreme E with Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz in the Acciona Sainz XE Team, fighting for podium finishes and victories in every race.

“We have organised the first electric rallycross world championship, the FIA RX2e. We developed the cars and produced some 20 units, and we are the promoters of the championship. We have been appointed to organise the United States rallycross championship, we have done some touring races in Sweden with a Mini and we also have cars in South America. Our motorsport division keeps on growing.

“We have grown and learnt with the knowledge, the know-how and the R&D work we have done in the motorsport world. We use that technology and capacity to build 2,000-horsepower hypercars for other brands and now we want to transfer it to our new brand, Zeroid. The motto ‘Race 2 Road’ encapsulates the future of QEV. We want to leave a mark in the history of the automotive industry and make our knowledge accessible to everyone.”

QEV Technologies

QEV Technologies

Photo by: QEV

Electric cars born in Spain, made for the world

The headquarters of QEV Technologies are built in a strategic location, as this enables the company to access to use the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as its test track whenever a new prototype requires a shakdown. But the magic happens within the walls of its building.

Its three floors house the management office, but most importantly a technical office where all the creative and computer-aided work takes place. Its technical and software departments further develop and finetune the engines and batteries.

Everything takes shape in the workshop. The high-voltage systems department builds the wiring and the batteries of the different prototypes and the bodywork are produced at the autoclave and the different cutting and welding areas.

Over 120 people work at QEV Technologies today, although the workforce is always expanding. The software department tripled its size in just two years. New projects, such as the Zeroid electric commercial vehicles, indicate that this exponential growth will continue.

Nico Bassan heads up the Technical and Software department, which in turn is divided into three different areas: Electronics, Software and Electric Systems. When he is not working at the technical office, Bassan is trackside as one of the engineers for the Acciona Sainz XE Team, whose sporting structure is managed by QEV Tech.

“We have an edge in the integration of several components all at once,” Bassan says. “We keep in mind the bigger picture of the product and we can properly assess where we must invest more in development or if we can use some pre-existing materials, for example. Sometimes we develop everything from scratch and on others occasions, we work from pre-existing modules. Every project is analysed so we always choose what is best for the client, the championship, or the racing series.

“Software and controls are other sensitive areas we have learnt to develop. We do it entirely in-house. Having a dyno in our facilities allows us to take the prototypes to a pretty good level way before we first hit the track with them, so they work well from the very beginning.”

Jonatan Fernández Hée is QEV's Head of Software who, among other projects, supervises the Nitro Rallycross. He travels to every race, where he coordinates the different engineers that QEV Tech sends to each round to handle the operation of the cars.

“We are always evolving and this is one of our biggest strengths,” he says. “We have an important understanding in terms of batteries, bigger than manufacturers way bigger than us. We want to keep on evolving, check the new technologies that are available and introduce them sensibly and appropriately.”

QEV Technologies - Arcfox GT Race Edition

QEV Technologies - Arcfox GT Race Edition

Photo by: QEV

Formula E, the big international stage

QEV Technologies has been involved in Formula E since the very first season, where it managed the NEXTEV TCR team and drove it to championship glory with Nelson Piquet Jr. One year later, QEV started a long and successful relationship with Mahindra leading its engineering, operations, and track activities. Today, it supports Andretti-Porsche in the team's championship quest.

“By being in a racing series like Formula E since the very beginning, we have been able to learn everything there is to know about the development of electric mobility,” says Javier Alonso, Director of the Motorsport Division of QEV Tech. “We are facing a new technology and although some people don’t believe in electric cars, we think they are the future.”

QEV Tech plays a crucial role in the Andretti team as the developer of its vehicle software, and thus also its energy management strategies. The engineers are the stars of the show as the regulations have very few restrictions in this area, so the success or failure of the entire project relies largely on them. Fernández Hée believes the contribution of engineers is even greater than their counterparts in Formula 1, even if the development war goes unnoticed by most people in a championship that uses the same chassis.

“Formula E is clearly right there at the top if we talk about the complexity of their different functionalities and power trains,” he says. “In Formula 1, you are given a baseline and you can change four or five different areas, but you do not get to develop the software from scratch. In Formula E, you do. All the software is done in-house and it is up to you to assist the driver as much as you can or as much as your tools allow you to.

“Everything has changed now, but in the beginning, there was no restriction at all in terms of how many updates you could introduce throughout a season. It was up to you.

“When there is a penalty for using too much energy, the software is to blame. If the limit is set at 600 kW, you want to stay at 599.9 and be confident enough that it will not go any further. And you want to make it to the end of the race with only 0.1 kWh left in your battery.”

Championships like Formula E are a training ground to learn lessons that can be applied to road cars. This does not only apply to physical elements such as the engine or the battery, but also to the software that controls the performance of the car. In the era of the connected vehicle, the transfer of technology is almost instantaneous.

“Between the '70s and the '90s, the technology that was transferred from the racetrack to the road was mainly down to mechanical components,” says Fernández Hée. “This was already pretty much restricted through the 2000s and 2010s, but now the road cars are becoming digital and therefore getting into software. The transfer of technology in that field is immediate. This is what happens with the Hispano Suiza Carmen.”

QEV Technologies - Campeones Fórmula E 2014-15

QEV Technologies - Campeones Fórmula E 2014-15

Photo by: QEV

Electric Rallycross: RX2E and Nitro Rallycross

QEV Technologies is the company behind the FIA RX2e Championship, an all-electric feeder series to the Rallycross World Championship that comprises five different events scattered around Europe. The Spanish company oversees everything related to this series, from the development of the cars to the promotion of the events and the races themselves.

For QEV, getting into rallycross was a turning point. While in Formula E it could only work on certain components, this new project enabled it to embrace every phase of the vehicle's development. As of today, all the units that compete in the RX2e championship are built and developed by QEV.

The car is named Zeroid X1. It produces 250kW of power and some 335-horsepower, with 510 Newton meters of maximum torque. Its chassis is tubular and the whole vehicle weighs 1,170kg. Besides competing in RX2e, the car was one of the stars of the 2023 Race of Champions, where it was driven by some of the finest drivers in international motorsport.

The designers adjusted the aesthetics of a rallycross car to achieve a coherent and harmonious result. It is QEV’s very own car.

“We have taken care of the development of the cars competing in the FIA RX2e Championship”, says Bassan. “This includes chassis, bodywork, battery, power-unit… We have set it up pretty much ourselves. And finally, all the software and the calibration of the engines and the inverter, which are part of our daily routine.

“The challenge, in this case, is that these cars were meant for a championship that didn’t even exist back in the day, so we were pioneers in creating the first all-electric rallycross racing series. We started it during the pandemic, so it was a bit of a gamble, but we pushed to see how far we could make it. There were many doubts, but we have overcome the expectations and the result is a complete success, as recognised by everyone involved.”

All the development work that went into the Zeroid X1 was reinvested in the FC1-X, the 1,088-horsepower beast used in the Nitro Rallycross championship which takes performance to the very limit. Fernández Hée thinks that “the FC1-X is the most complex car there is because of the levels of power it produces. It does not have any driver aids, so there is no traction control, ABS or torque vectoring. But its power and torque are brutal”.

Talking about this car, 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button once said that it was the closest thing he had driven to the old Group B rally cars.

Besides leading the development of the FC1-X, QEV also supports the different racing teams and drivers competing in the series. Five engineers travel from Barcelona to each round in the calendar to service the teams. The same happens in other series, like Extreme E, where QEV also sends engineers that work on other projects of the company day-to-day.

QEV Technologies - Nitro Rallycross

QEV Technologies - Nitro Rallycross

Photo by: QEV

Extreme E, the fight against climate change

QEV Technologies has been involved in the Extreme E Championship as the technical partner of the XITE Energy team (previously known as Hispano Suiza, intrinsically related to QEV) and currently supports the Acciona Sainz XE Team. Even though Extreme E is a spec-car series, QEV oversees optimising its operations to achieve the best possible result. Orús himself leads the Acciona Sainz project as the team principal and he is surrounded by other engineers that also work for QEV.

Acciona Sainz fought for the 2022 Extreme E title up until the very last round, despite a spectacular crash in Sardinia that compromised heavily its championship hopes, and secured two second-place finishes and a third-place along the way. Sainz, who will be replaced this season by Mattias Ekstrom while he recovers from injuries sustained in a Dakar Rally crash, and Laia Sanz are one of the strongest driving line-ups of the series.

“Working with Carlos and Laia is both an honour and a pleasure,” says Alonso. “It is a very competitive team. Carlos has a vast knowledge of the history of motorsport and we carry all that know-how to the electric world with such a big vehicle. And working obviously with Laia, who comes from bikes and has a different concept of racing than Carlos. She brings a lot to the team.”

Laia Sanz, Carlos Sainz, Acciona | Sainz XE Team

Laia Sanz, Carlos Sainz, Acciona | Sainz XE Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

The future: Sustainable mobility

QEV Technologies is one of the biggest companies in electric motorsport. Its knowledge on the matter is ever-expanding and it is willing to tackle brand-new challenges.

In the short and mid-term, its future will go beyond the racetrack and reach the streets of the major cities. For over a year, QEV has been preparing the launch of its very own brand of commercial vehicles. It will be called Zeroid and its focus will be on electric vans and hydrogen-powered buses, made in a factory in Barcelona.

“Our motto ‘Race 2 Road’ encapsulates the future of QEV,” says Orus. “In motorsports, we have learnt about energy management, batteries, vehicle software and dynamics, and light cars. We want to use all this experience we have gathered to create Zeroid.

“Going zero emissions has always been our dream and we can leave a mark in the history of the industry. We are currently working on that brand, where we are making all our knowledge accessible to everyone. We will be making zero-emission buses and all-electric last-mile delivery vans.”

Alonso concludes that “motorsport is useful to develop technologies that will eventually reach the open roads.” This is what happened in the past with transmissions or certain materials and is happening now in the era of the digital car and ultra-fast charging, which improve year after year and contribute to making electric mobility more accessible.

“This has historically happened in Formula 1 and rallying, and right now it is happening with electric cars,” he says. “This is what helps us in the launch of our very own zero-emission brand, Zeroid, where we are developing hydrogen-powered buses, last-mile delivery vans and this new mobility that we want to promote from QEV and Zeroid.”

Racing has always played an instrumental role in the history of the automotive industry. It has been the laboratory where technological breakthroughs have been made, making our road cars safer and more efficient. With the dawn of the electric car, a new era begins. And QEV Technologies wants to play a major role in it, from racetracks all around the world to the roads of our cities.

Joan Orús, CEO QEV Technologies

Joan Orús, CEO QEV Technologies

Photo by: QEV


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