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“Are Friends Electric?”

August 29, 2012

Earlier this week, the FIA announced an agreement to licence the commercial rights of the burgeoning electric car championship to Formula E Holdings (FEH).

Based primarily in London, FEH is headed by Spanish entrepreneur Enrique Bañuelos de Castro, while Addax Capital chairman (and GP2 team owner) Alejandro Agag sits as CEO and shareholder.
Lord Paul Drayson of Drayson Racing Technologies and Eric Barbaroux (chairman of French electric automotive company “Electric Formula”) are also involved.

The championship – due to begin in 2014 – will be the first to be powered exclusively by electric energy and is hoped to attract ten teams fielding twenty drivers, with races due to take place around some of the world’s leading cities, with Rio de Janeiro the first to confirm a date.
Mexico is looking into hosting a round, while Prince Albert of Monte Carlo has also been approached. The series will also be looking to major cities in the various continents around the world with an emphasis on Eastern venues.

On the subject of racing in cities as opposed to natural racing circuits, Agag was clear in his beliefs:
“We believe that cities are the natural environment for electric cars. The extended use of EV will play a very important part in reducing city air pollution. We want to race in the heart of some of the leading cities in the world. Cities committed to clean mobility and sustainability. We think we can be of help to those cities that are promoting the use of the electric car, by making it more popular.”

While there have been individual electric car Grands Prix before, this will be the first time championship status has been assigned to the category.

As a marker of his leadership of the FIA, this move further underlines President Jean Todt’s desire to involve categories outside of Formula 1.
“This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience. We are pleased with this agreement with Formula E Holdings as they bring a very strong experience in Motorsport. The new events will provide a great way to engage the younger generation.
“This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share FIA values with a wide audience as clean energy, mobility and sustainability. This is a great day and a strong message to the motor sport community. The FIA is definitely looking to the future!”

Always a keen competitor, Agag was also open to share his ambitions for the series.
“We have 3 main objectives: The first is to create exciting and competitive racing. This will be a real competition between cars and drivers, where the best technology and the best pilot will win. We want to create a show for all ages, focusing on the younger generations that identify with many of our values.
“The second is to become a framework for the research and development around the electric vehicle (EV). Battery life and efficiency of electric engines are two fields in which many global corporations are investing vast resources. Technological breakthroughs in these fields will take the electric car to a different level. We would like to become the testing ground for those advances.
“The third is to make people believe in electric cars. Believe in the power of these cars; believe they work. To make people believe that they need an electric car and a more sustainable lifestyle. Many people don’t think about buying an electric car because they don’t know the facts about them. We want to show everyone what these cars can do.”

The Barwa Addax GP2 boss went further still:
“The automotive industry is currently going through a process of significant transformation that will become increasingly visible. New and more sustainable technologies are being introduced, which will make cars more efficient and environmentally friendly.
“In this transformation, the electric car will play a key role, as the most practical and immediate way to achieve these goals. We are convinced that the future of auto motion, particularly in cities, is electric.
“The promotion of clean mobility and sustainability is a priority for the FIA, so joining forces to set up the first sustainable global motorsport championship is a great opportunity for us. We expect this Championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities.”

Meanwhile, ex-Formula 1 racer Lucas di Grassi has signed on to be the official development driver for the series. Demonstrations of the Formula E machines are set to begin next year.

While disappointed with the somewhat static nature of the technical regulations, it may go someway to filling the grid until the series has imbedded itself within the world and culture of motorsport.
Formula E is a nod toward the future of motorsport, and the regulations may still be opened to provide avenues of development for electric racing to explore.
The series is open to any cars sanctioned as Formula E by the FIA; however the Formulec EF 01 prototype – the basis of the new car – is already in operation and is available for use by interested parties.

This will be a very interesting project to watch indeed, but it must be noted that anyone who says electric racing cars don’t make a sound hasn’t seen an electric car race.
They do make a sound, albeit a whiney one, much like a blender that has had that sharpness removed. It makes for quite an interesting experience indeed.

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