Imagine a sport with all the thrills and spills of Formula One, but one that’s much more beneficial for the planet. Sound like a pipedream? Not if you’ve heard of Formula E.
As you’ll know if you’ve been reading some of our other blogs, like 8 things you need to know about biomass energy, we’re passionate about building a sustainable future, and it seems that plenty of other industries are too - including sport.
And while many have been hooked on motor sports like Formula One for years – and even if you haven’t you’re probably aware of the glitz and glamour it attracts - we all know that it’s not the most environmentally friendly pastime. That’s where Formula E comes in.
So what’s this sport all about then? What makes it so sustainable? How does it maintain the action and adrenalin that other motor sports provide? And where can you experience it live? Wonder no more. Here are 10 things you need to know about one of the most innovative sports right now…
1. Formula E is the world’s first all-electric motor racing series
Take a look at a Formula E car and to the naked eye it might not look much different to those competing in Formula One. But there are some significant differences. They’re all electric for a start – running on a battery that’s powered by 0% emission and renewable glycerine fuel – which makes them far more efficient as the world looks to cut carbon emissions.
It also means they’re very quiet – by motor racing standards anyway. The cars reach about 80 decibels, which is a bit louder than a regular street car, but more than 50 decibels quieter than a Formula One equivalent. In terms of speed, well that’s where the Formula E cars fall down – they reach around 140mph whereas Formula One cars can top 200mph – but as we’ll see later on, the street circuits that Formula E cars race on mean this difference isn’t as noticeable as you’d think.
As for the tyres, they’re specially designed too. Created by Michelin, the wheels are suitable for all weather conditions and, best of all, are all recycled once a race day is complete.
2. It features some of the best teams and drivers in the world…
Formula E boasts some of the quickest and most talented drivers in the business – a mixture of young guns and motor racing veterans. There’s former F1 stars Lucas Di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi – who currently occupy the top two spots in the driver’s championship – as well as ex-BMW driver Nick Heidfeld, Nicolas Prost (son of Formula One great Alain), and Bruno Senna (Ayrton Senna’s nephew). Sam Bird flies the flag for Great Britain, whilst the current World Champion is Nelson Piquet Jr, formerly of the Renualt Formula One team.
3. …And it’s got some pretty big name backers too
If Formula One has built its glitzy reputation on attracting celebrities to its races, then Formula E isn’t far behind. Motorsport legends like Alain Prost and Mario and Michael Andretti are heavily involved with the sport, as is Sir Richard Branson and Oscar winner Leonardo Di Caprio (more about him later).
As for the teams, well they include offerings from Audi, Renault, McLaren and Citroen – who have paired up with Branson to form the DS Virgin Racing team. Unlike Formula One, the Formula E constructor’s championship has a more global feel to it, with teams from China, Japan, India and the USA involved.
4. The race circuits are something special
Forget your dull racetracks situated in the middle-of-nowhere, Formula E races are brought right to the heart of some of the world’s best cities. In Paris, drivers race around the historic Les Invalides complex, whilst in Berlin the track has the iconic Alexanderplatz for a backdrop. In the United States, the event takes place at Long Beach, which has a longstanding love affair with motor racing.
Naturally, even the Formula E race calendar is well designed. Organisers ensure it runs on a circular basis, so that the teams can quickly and efficiently transport race equipment around the world to keep the carbon footprint impact as low as possible.
5. The sport has incorporated some clever innovations…
With a target audience much younger than other motor racing events, Formula E claims it aspires to be the world’s leading digital sport. This means it connects with fans regularly through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, using 360-degree cameras to provide near-live highlights that give viewers the chance to really feel like they’re part of the action.
And perhaps even more interesting here is the creation of FanBoost, where fans vote on social media to give their favourite driver an additional power boost during the race. As you can imagine, it’s meant that drivers are doing even more to ensure that they get their fans on side, now points are at stake.
6. …but the main goal is to raise awareness of sustainability
When Jean Todt, President of FIA (the governing body of motor sport), launched the Formula E concept, the main purpose was always to demonstrate the potential of sustainable mobility. The transport sector is reportedly responsible for around 25% of global greenhouse emissions (and one fifth of total energy use), so here is a platform to show how electric cars can make a difference.
18 months on, and the sport still passionately champions sustainability – during every Formula E race an accompanying eVillage gives fans interactive experiences that raise awareness of sustainability and looks at how people can help the environment in the future. Meanwhile a Formula E Sustainability Committee, chaired by Di Caprio, has been set up to act as a forum to discuss ideas and solutions for wider global environmental issues.
7. It could have wider technological implications too…
Not content with just raising awareness of sustainability or providing a more environmentally friendly motor sport alternative, Formula E could act as a catalyst for technological innovation in the automotive industry as a whole. The research findings produced by the Formula E teams and partners have been published to help organisations work towards a future where electric vehicles and sustainable mobility is more than just a ‘nice-to-have’.
The report covers everything from new technologies, new infrastructures and business models to open innovation and success through collaboration. It’s a sport aiming to genuinely give something back to the wider industry, beyond simply money or fame.
8. …And it wants to build a lasting legacy
It’s easy to make noise with something new and exciting, but it’s harder to commit to a long-term plan. We know at E.ON the importance of looking both short-term and further into the future if we’re really serious about building a sustainable legacy.
With Formula E, there are some interesting objectives in place. In the short term, the plan is for the sport to have cut its CO2 emissions by 30% by the end of its 5th season, to meet and exceed social and environmental laws each season, and to produce at least one scientific study each season based on the data it’s accumulated. In the long term, Formula E aims to build lasting legacies with the local cities that holds races, contributing to local schools’ STEM programmes and giving children the chance to build and race their very own electric kit cars.
9. The sport is only getting more popular…
Two seasons in and Formula E is proving a big hit with motor racing fans – and particularly those of a younger generation. Over 190 million people tuned in to watch the first season, and it’s now being broadcast in more than 100 countries around the world. If you’re in the UK, then you can see the races on ITV. In the USA the coverage has been picked up by sports giant FOX Sports.
And for season three – due to start in October – we’re expected to have new circuits in New York, Brussels, Hong Kong and Montreal, as well as a new team, as Jaguar enters the fold for the first time. Formula E is growing – and fast.
10. …And you can experience it for yourself in the UK soon!
Has the idea of a sustainable, adrenalin fuelled sport captured your imagination in the same way it has ours? Then the good news for those living in the UK is that the Formula E is coming to London very soon. Not just that, but the races in July will form the season’s climax, so you can find out for yourself whether Di Grassi or Buemi triumphs – at the moment it’s too close to call.
And in keeping with the other Formula E races, the British track is a street circuit, with the teams racing 2.9 kilometres around Battersea Park. It really is a sight to behold, and as we now know, is a great indication of how sport can play a key role in providing a more sustainable future.
With innovation and sustainability two areas that we’re passionate about, you can bet we’ll be watching…