Motorsports is well known for its development of new technology. Various products which have been tested in Formula 1, have found its way into normal production cars several years later. The same thing is due to happen with the new FIA Formula E Championship, a racing series solely with electric powered vehicles. The automotive industry is pushing for new environmental friendly cars and therefore Formula E might become another pinnacle of motorsports. The phrase ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ modernizes.
With the decreasing amount of spectators at the race track, less TV viewers, less sponsoring and more teams running into financial problems, it is about time that the motorsports paradigm shifts into a sustainable direction. Taking environmental responsibility, bringing the spectacle to the people through city centre racing in global metropolis, educating the people, paying attention to new target groups (also non-motorsport), and developing the engineers of the future. That’s what Formula E is about.
To confirm its identity, the new – currently battery-electric – series have confirmed ten cities world wide, including Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles. Top teams from motorsports – like Andretti Autosport and Super Aguri – and existing outfits on green racing technology – like Drayson Racing – have been confirmed. 20 identical cars, developed by top firms like Dallara, Renault, McLaren and Williams Advanced Engineering will line up during the first season. The participation of car manufactures seems not too far away, as from year two any vehicle being built following the regulations may participate.
It is considered to be relevant to have an environmentally friendly racing series added to the long list of categories. Formula E has built a credit worthy status during the past months with confirming the cities, teams, some sponsors and a stunning car. But the question is: what value will be created?
Therefore a ‘Sustainability Report’ has been written by leading professional services firm Ernst & Young (EY). The outcome? Thanks to Formula E, the car industry will benefit from an extra €142 million worldwide sales, 77 million additional vehicles sold, 42,0000 permanent jobs created, €13,9 bn saved CO2 costs and 4 bn oil barrels saved over the next 25 years.
Electric autosport pioneer
But how are these figures compiled? ElectricAutosport.com contacted one of the report’s authors Eelco Rietveld, Manager Sustainable Innovation & Mobility at EY. The Dutchman is considered to be one of the electric motorsports pioneers and it was therefore a logic choice that EY consulted him. Together with his former colleague Godert van Hardenbroek, Rietveld founded a company named ‘Formula Zero’ in 2003. They were way ahead of their time, building two hydrogen fuel cell powered go karts and launching worlds first zero emission championship in 2008. However, due to the economic crisis and global shift into battery electric vehicles, the company shutdown in 2011.
Formula Zero shared the vision of the promotion of zero emission mobility, inner city racing, training the engineers of tomorrow and educating the crowd. They started with small vehicles and these would evolve into formula racers with car manufacturers participating as technology advanced. A similar idea which Formula E currently executes. “During our first meeting I thought that I was sitting at the wrong side of the table,” Rietveld jokes, referring to the ideas developed ten years ago. “Unfortunately we were way too early to setup a zero emission championship. Also fewer resources were available at that time. But it was a great opportunity to bring valuable experience into this report.”
The report has been written one year ago and was made public during an event at Bloomberg TV in London on Tuesday 12 November. It was not only written because its significance for stakeholders, but also it was required by the FIA when it called for a tender in 2011 for selecting the promoter of Formula E.
Focus on future effects
The assignment of writing the report was trusted to Juan Costa, EY Global Climate Change & Sustainability Services Leader, a Spanish citizen who knew fellow countryman Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings. EY focussed on an essential question. “Calculating the effects that Formula E would have for the acceleration of electric mobility was significant. Therefore we have looked into all kinds of aspects towards a contribution to the future use of EV’s. That’s why many indirect effects were important,” Rietveld explains and gives an example. “You can compare it with an event like the Olympic Games, were you see that infrastructure, acceptation, marketing values and branding are getting a more permanent boost.”
Therefore a methodology has been developed. “At first a crew looked into current scenarios for electric vehicles. Over 60 different scenarios have been analysed to sketch a low, moderate and high scenario for EV sales. Our conclusion was that 17% to 65% of the car sales in 2040 consist of electric vehicles,” Rietveld knows.
Also the barriers of buying an electric vehicle were taken into account, also one of Rietvelds expertises. “Think about range, charging time, safety, terminology, batteries, etc. We conducted a sensitive analysis to find out what was important. Social acceptance appeared to be the most important factor for buying an EV.”
Assumptions made with care
When Formula E reaches its goals with ten city centre races, ten teams and 250 million moments of contact through tv, (social) media and games, the competition will lead to innovation. “We have also taken the amount of money, fte’s, expected improvements, social media activities etc. into account. What influences will that have? Assumptions were being made, but we were always conservative. For example when 250.000 spectators attend the race, only a small percentage is likely to buy an electric car. We came up with the ‘green acceleration factor’. The efforts of Formula E will lead to an increase of EV sales by 77 million additional sales.”
Predicting about what is going to happen in 25 years is always difficult. Rietveld acknowledges that: “Seven years ago we had no iPhone, and now most of the people own a smartphone and are often online. The future remains uncertain. However, transition to a sustainable world is happening. It could go as predicted, slower or even faster. But who knows that half of the car sales might be hybrids and electric in five years time. You couldn’t imagine that a few years ago. With the positive message that Formula E is carrying, I’m sure the future looks bright.”
Calculation of the final assumptions and forthcoming results began when all the figures were known. “With more electric cars on the road, the world will consume less oil and air pollution will be reduced”, Rietveld analyses. “We can count air pollution with the amount of dead people caused by polluted air. According to the World Health Organization, one death equals a 40,000-dollar loss of productivity. Thanks to Formula E, the world can save €25 billion on health care costs and productivity from pollution reduction and significant quality of life improvement in cities. And air pollution must not be underestimated. If we don’t change our way of life and mobility doubles in 25 years time, don’t be surprised to live several months shorter as a citizen of a major city. ”
Also the CO2 levels causing climate change were taking into account. “Calculated by the United Nations Environment Programme and major insurance companies, the current Formula E strategy would save €13,9 billion CO2 costs and 900 million tonnes of CO2 would be avoided. That’s twice the yearly annual emissions produced by Italy.”
New pinnacle of motorsports
“In the end it’s all about a transition of energy: a shift to use renewable energy sources to live our lives and to drive electric vehicles. This will make a difference,” Rietveld expects. The report justifies the existence of Formula E to the FIA, sponsors and cities. “By doing something ‘small’, with just one racing series, it will have so much effect on the long run. According to the report, Formula E will have a valuable contribution to electric mobility.”
Rietveld concludes: “I believe the series is initiating the process to sustainable racing and will therefore become the new pinnacle of motorsports.”
The picture above is taken during the Formula Zero world premiere championship race in August 2008. World’s first racing series powered by zero emission vehicles, co-organised by Eelco Rietveld. The Dutchman now works for Ernst & Young and likes to join the conversation about electric mobility via email@example.com.