I'm pro electric racing, in theory. Not having seen any, it's hard to know for sure. But anything that combines racing and technology is fine by me, and I appreciate the need for motorsport to branch out into alternative fuels and power sources if it is to remain relevant to automotive manufacturers.
So the prospect of Formula E has long piqued my interest, and the FIA and Formula Electric Holdings (FEH) today released all manner of information on the Formula E World Championship, which will kick off in 2014.
The FIA have taken the decision to licence out the commercial rights of this new championship, and a consortium of investors working under the FEH banner have undertaken to manage Formula E.
But this nascent sport has not been delivered straight into the hands of the money men - FEH is made up of a number of motorsport and electric vehicle veterans all keen to use their years of experience to make Formula E a success.
"We are very pleased with the agreement reached with FIA," said Alejandro Agag, CEO of FEH and owner of the Addax race team. "We see this as a great opportunity to create a new and exciting spectacle mixing racing, clean energy and sustainability, looking to the future. 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."
Agag is joined at FEH by Lord Drayson, who owns Drayson Racing Technologies; Eric Barbaroux, chairman of France's "Electric Formula"; and entrepreneur Enrique Bañuelos.
In its maiden year, Formula E will see 20 drivers from ten teams competing on city street circuits around the world. Rio de Janiero was the first city to sign up to the championship, while Monaco and Mexico are said to be interested.
The racing format will be restricted by the current capabilities of electric vehicles - pit stops will see drivers changing cars, not tyres or batteries, and races will be much shorter, with a full weekend's action compressed into a single day.
Want more details? Below the jump is a Q&A with Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings. The Q&A was released by FEH, and has been copied in full.
Q. Why promote a car competition like Formula E now?
A. 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.
Q. What objectives do you want to achieve with this new Championship?
A. 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.
Q. The races will take place in city centres, why is that?
A. 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.
Q. Do you have any cities already in mind for 2014?
A. We are just beginning the process of contacting potential candidate cities. The first city that has confirmed its
willingness to host an Electric Grand Prix has been Rio de Janeiro. Both Mayor Eduardo Paes and Governor Sergio
Cabral enthusiastically support the project. Rio is a city with a special commitment to sustainability, as the recent global
environment summit has shown (Rio+20). Also, Rio will host games for the forthcoming Football World Cup in 2014 and
the next Olympics in 2016. We will be proud to race there from 2014 onwards. We have also received interest from other
parts of the world. In Mexico we are coordinating with key figures including Carlos Slim Domit (escuderia Telmex) and
Federico Alaman (CIE), to identify which would be the best location in the country.
Prince Albert of Monaco has publicly stated his support for the electric car and his wish to host an Electric Grand Prix
in Montecarlo. We would obviously love to race in a place with such a long and beautiful racing tradition.
We will of course look for cities in North America, Europe, Africa, Oceania and we will place particular emphasis on Asia.
Countries like China are investing huge resources in the promotion of the use of EVs. We think we can contribute to
Q. What will a Formula E car be like?
A. Formula E cars will be single seaters with amazing acceleration, able to reach speeds of over 200 km per hour, the only difference is that they will be solely powered by electric energy.
The championship will be open to any car homologated as Formula E by the FIA. We as promoter want to guarantee
that there will be a full grid of cars at the beginning of the first season in 2014. FEH owns the most advanced technology
currently in use in electric Formula cars, and the only Formulec FE01 prototype.
Q. How will the races be structured? How many teams, drivers etc?
A. The Electric Grand Prix will be very different - we want to organise a new kind of racing event. The first main feature is
that it will all happen in one day.
We will introduce many new features. Just two of which will be that the pole position will be the result of playoffs, with cars racing one against another, in a format similar to tennis or champions league. The second is that in the pit-stop, the driver will not change tyres or batteries, they will change car!
We expect to start the 2014 season with 10 teams and 20 drivers then possibly add a further one or two teams in 2015 or 2016. We are already in touch with many interested parties that would like to compete in the Championship; from traditional racing teams, to big global brands. We will shortly start the selection process for competitors that will be finally approved by FIA.
Q. Who will be your main partners?
A. We are open to partnerships with companies and individuals that identify with the values our Championship represents. We think this is an interesting alternative for companies directly related to the electric car, such as electric companies, batteries manufacturers and car companies that focus on electric.
However, we also see partners for this championship being all of those companies that place sustainability and the use of clean energy at the top of their agendas. We think we can be an alternative for companies that haven’t yet found a sponsorship opportunity that really fits with their corporate values.