Sustainability in Motorsport – Is it time to take Formula e seriously? - 19/02/2019
Formula e provides a glimmer of hope for motorsport, in a world rightly focused on limiting the carbon impact of activities in the face of climate change.
In a time before petrol, turbos and superchargers, steam and electric cars ruled the roads. Following the industrial revolution and the invention of mass producible oil-based fuels, it was simple a car was powered by either petrol or diesel and electricity was reserved purely for the milk float. Formula 1 cars featured 3.5l V12 engines and fuel was relatively inexpensive. But those days are well and truly consigned to the history books.
Enter Formula e. Conceived in 2011 after warnings of increasing CO2 emissions, of which cars have had their part to play, Formula e was meant to be the alternative to the gas guzzling Formula 1. At the time what seemed alien to the enthusiasts and personnel involved in motorsports has now become a reality, but why was there scepticism?
In the initial seasons, Formula e suffered criticism for relatively low top speeds, a lack of ‘proper’ engine noise and a car swap in the middle of the race. Why? Because Formula e was and is constantly compared to Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport. But as time has gone on and a new fanbase has developed, Formula e has entered it’s second generation of rules and now all has changed. New cars, new circuits, new cities, new teams, new drivers and most importantly new fans.
So, what’s all the fuss about? People often say that electric racing isn’t proper racing, but if anything, the racing in Formula e is closer than most formulas and series that I have seen. There will always be a place for Formula 1 but there is increasing looking to also be a place of Formula e.
But Formula e is not the golden child that everyone likes to think it is. With 13 rounds in 12 cities, Formula e certainly racks up the airmiles. Teams, Cars, Hospitality and the Tracks are flown around the world in, you guessed it, oil fuelled planes. The electricity used by the cars has the potential to be carbon neutral, if produced in the right way but is just as likely to be produced using traditional methods including coal powered power stations. But there is potential, potential to be green, potential to be carbon neutral and this is what Formula e is built upon.
With electricity starting to dominate the direction motorsport is heading in the future; WRX, WRC, BTCC, WTCC have all confirmed their next generations will be electric or hybrid at a minimum but with the intention of moving fully electric. Even karting is going electric, with the development of the electric kart motor by Rotax. Is it time to embrace electric? Simply, yes. Electric cars are starting to match petrol cars like for like. The current Pikes Peak out right record holder was from the electric Volkswagen I.D. R, blitzing the record by 15 seconds and the first car to go under 8 minutes up the hill.
But with this innovation, is it better for the environment to produce and run these electric cars, than for a local kart racer to drive around on their local track? Until there are serious improvements with regards to the additional impact of the series apart from the running fuel, Formula e will struggle to gain the attention and admiration of the diehard motorsport fans.
Often people look to demonise electricity as ruining the pure motorsport they love, but I look at electricity was a savour for motorsport, a safeguard for the continuation of the sport we love into an uncertain time. There will always be the iconic classic cars, the Ferrari 250 GTO, the Ford GT40, the Lancia Stratos, the McLaren MP4/5 and many more, and they will always be admired but the future is emission free and with the absence of the hydrogen engine development, the future looks electric.
Don't forget to check out Formula e on their website https://www.fiaformulae.com/ and catch up with the last race coverag on the BBC IPlayer or Youtube.