The all-electric Method E race is coming to Brooklyn this weekend
It all happened very quickly. In 2011, the head of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA, the umbrella organization of Formula 1) and the Spanish businessman Alejandro Agag met in a Parisian restaurant. Formula E, the first international electric road racing series, began as a series of notes on a napkin. But my goodness how it has grown.
Today Formula E is mainstream and uses teams from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mahindra, Mercedes-Benz, NIO, Nissan, Renault and Porsche. The races are truly international and will take place in Saudi Arabia in the 2020-2021 season (the seventh); Rome, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Monaco; Puebla, Mexico; London; Berlin; and – July 10th and 11th – in Brooklyn, New York. Other races have taken place in Beijing; Long Beach, California; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Miami; and Moscow.
For the single-seaters there are 12 teams with two drivers each. The routes, often in the city center, are 2 to 2.1 miles long. The reigning champion is Antonio Felix da Costa from Portugal, who drives for DS Techeetah, a Chinese team.
The cars have battery packs (standardized for all cars) developed by Atieva, a division of the start-up Lucid, which challenge Tesla in the field of high-performance electric vehicles. With the new packages, the cars can complete the entire race – half of the vehicle had to be changed before the 2019-2020 season. Formula 1 cars reach 60 mph in 2.5 seconds; Formula E is just behind with 2.8 seconds. The top speed for the electrics is 173 mph, not quite as fast as in Formula 1.
The teams make their cars competitive with subtle tweaks to the suspension and other components. And of course, driving skills count. The series attracted top drivers.
Formula 1 is a high-profile racing sport, but it’s also a major polluter, estimating its impact on 256,551 tons of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas of global warming, in 2018. It’s certainly not all about driving – 45% of the impact is on the movement of the car and team around the world. Formula 1 said it wanted to be net CO2 neutral by 2030 and run sustainable races by 2025 – but it’s unclear what that looks like.
Six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton said in 2019: “F1 only does it”. [net carbon neutral status] in 10 years and I don’t quite understand why that doesn’t change sooner. These big corporations that have a lot of money and power behind them and can definitely make changes faster, but that’s not their top priority. ”
75% of the influence of Formula E consists of freight traffic (transport of cars and parts), business trips (12%), spectator trips (6%), food and drinks (4%) and the actual events (3%). As Formula E has grown, so have its emissions, from 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in season 1 to 45,000 tonnes in season 5. Obviously. It also strives for CO2 neutrality.
Let’s take a look at NASCAR too. The cars burn gasoline at five miles per gallon, so with 40 cars competing over 500 miles the consumption is 6,000 gallons. With every gallon emitting 20 pounds of CO2, a racing weekend produces 120,000 pounds. Then multiply by 35 races a year to get £ 4 million annually.
Most forms of racing are dirty and want to stay that way. Racers protest against President Biden’s moves by the EPA to enforce law against auto parts manufacturers who disable exhaust systems. Kory Willis, who runs the PPEI Custom Tuning racing shop, says: “This will eliminate racing 100 percent within 10 years. Every drag strip across the country is being wiped out. No circles, no sprint cars – everything ends. ”
Now even automakers like McLaren are relying on electric racing. McLaren may be the only supercar maker not showing an electric vehicle, but it plans to run on batteries. In June, McLaren said it would get into Extreme E in 2022. This is an off-road electric series, also run by Agag, that promotes sustainability in sport, with competition in some pretty grueling environments (Greenland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal). The teams are male / female, with Molly Taylor (Australia) and Johan Kristofferson (Sweden) at the top with 71 points.
The Extreme E-Renner are electric dune buggy creations with all-wheel drive and no exhaust emissions. This is not the usual McLaren fare, but Racing CEO Zak Brown says, “This new company fits in with our roots of competing in a wide variety of categories, innovation and valor. Extreme E paves new paths in motorsport as a force for good to face some of the greatest challenges of our world today and in the future. ”
The Baja 1000 off-road race in Mexico has been a bit extreme so far for electric vehicles, although companies like Lordstown Motors have participated (but dropped out) in shorter events. A competitor, the New York Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, wants to tackle the Baja with an emission-free hydrogen vehicle next year.
The race is traditionally about winning. It still is, but a new element has been added – sustainability. From the 2020/21 season, Formula E will be an official FIA World Championship and no longer a novelty. New York is followed by London (July 24-25) and Berlin (August 14 and 15). The Brooklyn event will be held on the streets of Red Hook, London at ExCeL and Berlin at Tempelhof Airport.