Formula E proves that motorsports can be part of the race against the climate crisis

Our all-electric motorsport raises awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles, and alongside our partners, we advocate for the global adoption of clean mobility, writes Jamie Reigle

Wednesday 10 November 2021 09:45 GMT
‘Motorsports have a crucial role to play in accelerating technological developments that can be transferred to everyday use’
‘Motorsports have a crucial role to play in accelerating technological developments that can be transferred to everyday use’ (Shutterstock / lev radin)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


When Nyck de Vries lifted the trophy as the first driver to win the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, his victory signalled more than a cue for biodegradable confetti and champagne corks popping on the podium.

The triumph for the 26-year-old Mercedes-EQ team driver was a watershed moment in our seven season history as Formula E. It marked the climax of the first year of competition as an official FIA World Championship.

Most significantly, his win proved that it is possible to deliver the entertainment value and global reach associated with elite international sport, whilst maintaining industry-leading sustainable practices and operations. All of this was delivered at the heart of iconic global cities, such as London, New York, Berlin and Rome.

For every driver, engineer, employee or partner of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, proving what can be achieved in racing competition is only the first lap of the biggest race of all. Affecting real and positive change in the fight against the climate crisis is the ultimate victory.

Air pollution is a critical threat for billions of people around the world, and, left unchecked, it is only going to get worse. Today is transport day at Cop26 and decisive action needs to be taken now to tackle the issue of air pollution.

More than half of the world’s population currently live in urban areas and that is expected to increase to 68 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations. Cities contribute disproportionately to global air pollution, consuming 78 per cent of the world’s energy and producing more than 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Petrol and diesel vehicles are some of the biggest contributors of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, transport accounts for around a quarter of CO2 emissions, with cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes accounting for nearly three quarters of vehicle emissions. In countries like the UK and US, the transport sector is now responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than any other.

This is why the UK and other countries are looking to end the sales of petrol and diesel cars within the next decade. Speeding up the switch to electric vehicles is the quickest way to tackle air pollution. The organisers of Cop26 and governments are rightly advocating for urgent global commitments on the transition to electric transport, to reach net zero targets by 2050.

As well as governments taking action to incentivise the adoption of electric vehicles and help create the infrastructure needed, industry also has a huge role to play in helping to achieve these targets. This is why Formula E was conceived seven years ago, to stimulate innovation and collaboration in electric mobility. We bring manufacturers, endemic technology companies, global cities, brands and consumers together to accelerate urgent change.

As the only all-electric motorsport FIA World Championship, Formula E creates a unique technological innovation environment for many of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers, including Jaguar Land Rover, DS, Mahindra, Porsche, Mercedes, Nissan and NIO, to fast-track developments from racing to commercial use on the road.

Electric cars on the road today go further on every charge, due to increases in energy efficiency, enhancements in battery range and advances in powertrain development, achieved through technological advances in the first seven seasons of the championship. Our series title partner, ABB, is the world’s leading supplier of EV charging infrastructure.

Our all-electric motorsport raises awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles, and alongside our partners, we advocate for the global adoption of clean mobility, by enhancing technologies and working with cities to improve infrastructure. The key reason for hosting our races on the streets of iconic cities – in 2022, we are adding Jakarta, Vancouver and Seoul in our largest ever 16-race calendar – is to show these developments in the environments where they can have the most impact.

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At Cop26, we are demonstrating the benefits of tackling air pollution and climate change in the world’s cities. Motorsports have a crucial role to play in accelerating technological developments that can be transferred to everyday use, and they serve as a powerful platform to showcase innovative transport solutions for more sustainable lifestyles.

In partnership with the UN Environment Programme, we are raising awareness of the impacts of air pollution, and promoting solutions such as electric mobility and renewable energy, to improve the air we breathe. We have also partnered with UNICEF’s Safe and Healthy Environment Fund to positively impact three million children. In Mexico, our partnership with UNICEF will create a climate-resilient school programme in three states, through the implementation of water harvesting systems and solar panels in schools.

As well as driving change by acting as a test bed for innovation, sport plays a vital role in inspiring people to live differently. As a founding member and signatory of the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework, which provides the sports sector with guidance on how to take tangible action in fighting climate change, we are supporting other sports to improve their operations, and showcasing sustainability best practices to our fans.

Formula E is the first sport in the world to be certified net zero carbon since inception. We continually measure our carbon impact and reduce it as much as we can. Where we haven’t managed to make further reductions, we invest in projects to increase renewable energy production such as biomass and wind energy generation. This offsets the entire carbon footprint of our championship, including fan travel and activities onsite on race day.

We are also the first sport to adhere to science based targets by committing to reduce our CO2 emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, based on 2019 emissions.

With the world on red alert for climate change, it’s time for the leaders of countries, companies and communities to start thinking about their legacy – what will you leave behind?

Jamie Reigle is CEO of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

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