Formula E: The New Guilt-Free Motor Racing

When it comes to the environment, I like to think I do my part. I recycle, I turn off all my electrical items after I’ve finished using them, I (try to) use a re-usable bag when I go to the supermarket (sometimes it’s an off the cuff visit, in which case I’m often forced to get a plastic one). I’m in full support of off-shore wind farms and baffled by the arguments against them. Wind is free and not exactly in short supply, why on earth SHOULDN’T we harvest it to create an alternative energy source? I also like solar panels and think there should be some kind of incentive (a government subsidy perhaps) for more people to have them and lower their electricity/water bills. Generally I like to think that the earth would be pleased with my efforts to avoid further harm.

However, there is a fly in the carbon reduction ointment.

I also like gas guzzling cars, aeroplanes, and Formula 1. Fuel to the fire, some would argue. I’m inclined to agree, or I would have been up until a few months ago when I discovered an entirely new approach to motor sport.

Enter Formula E, dubbed as a rival for Formula 1 (though I doubt that could ever happen), starting in Beijing on September 13th of this year and (potentially) finishing in London on June 27th 2015. The countdown to testing has already begun with only 44 days to go before the cars descend upon Donnington Park Racing Circuit for 5 days of testing, spread out over 8 weeks. The test days are open to the public and free of charge (unlike F1 where you might pay £80+ for 1 ticket!) but you do have to register for tickets*… still, a good opportunity to get a feel for it before it really takes off.

So what’s so special about Formula E?

I suppose the most obvious difference between this and F1 is the cars and their engines. Within the past year, F1 has moved a step closer to becoming more efficient by replacing the petrol engines with hybrid engines. However, this change is a drop in the ocean in comparison to the cars in Formula E. In this sport, each car runs completely on electricity. The Official Formula E webpage describes it as;

‘a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades […] accelerating general interest in these cars and promoting sustainability […] The Championship centres around three core values of Energy, Environment and Entertainment and is a fusion of engineering, technology, sport, science, design, music and entertainment – all combining to drive the change towards an electric future.’

I think it is here where fans of motor sport might divide in opinion. Some would argue that the whole point of being a ‘petrol-head’ is that petrol is actually involved, but others might realise the good Formula E might do for the development of hybrid/electric cars.

For some reason ‘green’ cars have a bad press, perhaps because of the fact that hybrid cars are much more expensive than petrol. The range is much shorter than that of a petrol car, and the facilities for re-charging the electric car are much sparser than petrol stations. ‘Petrol-heads’ might also miss the sound of the ear-popping engine when they go down to Donnington for a track day and pretend they’re Jackie Stewart or James Hunt. Well sure, each to their own, but there certainly isn’t any harm in developing the technology further and nullifying the repetitive arguments constantly used against it! Who knows, maybe Formula E could team up with the guys working on Solar Roadways** and make something truly futuristic.

For me, Formula E is a way of spicing up what some might consider to be a bit boring. Hopefully the sport will be able to gain enough support to deliver in their hopes of pushing the technology to its limits.

Of course, don’t just take my word for it, have a look for yourself! Visit http://www.fiaformulae.com/home for further information or take a look at the cars in action on their YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-DuRqsBQOEk_5o1q4Ze-Fg.

 

*For more information about registering for tickets see either:

http://www.fiaformulae.com/testing

or

http://www.donington-park.co.uk/event-form/

** For more information about Solar Roadways visit:

http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml

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