By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - BMW will work with the U.S.-based Andretti Formula E team this season before a possible factory involvement in the electric series from 2018, the German manufacturer said on Tuesday.
Formula E's third season starts in Hong Kong on Oct. 9.
The championship has attracted growing manufacturer interest, with Jaguar making its debut this year and Renault, Citroen's DS brand, Audi and India's Mahindra already involved.
"Over the coming years, the cooperation with Andretti Formula E will primarily focus on familiarising ourselves with the procedures and processes, and on intensifying our knowledge," said BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt in a statement.
"Our works driver Antonio Felix da Costa will be in action behind the wheel. A works involvement is then conceivable as of the series’ fifth season.
"The premise for all these steps is the further positive development of the series, which includes increasing the capacity of the batteries, for example."
BMW are already involved in the city-based electric series as official vehicle provider and supplier of the safety and medical cars with the fully-electric i3 and plug-in hybrid i8 models.
The Bavarian manufacturer withdrew from Formula One in 2009.
The batteries in Formula E cars are unable at present to last for a full race distance, with drivers having to pit and switch cars.
That is due to change by season five, with the result of a battery tender due to announced imminently by the sport's governing body, the FIA.
"We are in a great position now. We are going to be racing in the heart of Hong Kong in only a few days...with teams like Jaguar, Audi, Renault, Citroen DS, BMW," Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag told Reuters.
"I think we are doing pretty well already now, but year five is going to be a very visible year of the consolidation of the very long term series that is here to stay."
The Andretti Formula E team is run by Michael Andretti, the 1991 CART champion and son of 1978 Formula One champion Mario.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)