Formula E drives electric mobility innovation

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To be honest, I have never really been a fan of motorsport racing, but Formula E is something different. Regular sports car racing has always felt too loud, too polluting and a bit pointless, but electric car racing is changing my perception rapidly. The most recent Formula E race and associated FIA Smart Cities event in Santiago, Chile last week highlighted the importance of sustainable mobility and the advantages of advancing electric technology as quickly as possible. Extremely fast electric cars, whooshing by cheering audiences with a distinctly electric whizzing sound, made me realize that the future is definitely now.

In conversation with Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, it rapidly became clear that this was a different kind of racing. Not only is it exciting, because electric vehicles are fast, really fast, going from 0 to 100 km/h in 3 seconds, but it is also a showcase of modern mobility, and a means of advancing the electric technology through competition.
The output and efficiency of batteries is getting better with each Formula E season, while this year the drivers still had to switch vehicles halfway through the race, as of next season batteries will last for the whole duration of the race. According to Agag this is a “very visible demonstration of how quickly these technologies are evolving and of the role of Formula E and competition in the process of the evolution of electric car technologies.” He also emphasized that Chile has an opportunity in the future of the transformation of mobility by tapping into the country’s vast copper and lithium reserves: “There is four times more copper in an electric car than in a combustion car and lithium is the key for batteries.”
There are a lot more sports fans than environmentalists, which gives sense to the strategy of using sports to put a spotlight on our sustainable and climate-smart development ambitions. Building low-carbon and resilient cities is surely a substantial part of addressing climate change , seeing that about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions are produced in urban areas and our global population is increasingly urbanizing.
Clean and safe mobility is a key ingredient to redesigning our cities , and with about 23% of fossil fuel based emissions coming from transport, electric mobility powered by renewable energy can certainly contribute to reducing our carbon footprints. In addition, electric mobility has the potential to remove air pollutants from our urban environments and thereby help reduce societal health impacts. Santiago E Prix winner Jean-Eric Vergne put it to me best: “Yesterday I went to the top of a hill in Santiago and I could not see the mountains, and I thought to myself, in 15 years if all the cars in this city are electric I will be able to see those mountains.”
These were the discussions, the solutions presented during the one-day FIA Smart Cities event on the Role of Clean Mobility for a Strong Economy that preceded the Formula E race. Jean Todt, President of FIA, emphasized: “With the Smart Cities program and Formula E Championship we want to show that cities and their leaders have feasible solutions towards sustainable transportation.”
While Formula E is certainly innovating electric mobility, other forms of sustainable mobility were discussed and celebrated. I joined with the FIA team and partners to shortlist the Startup Contest presentations and we selected KAPPO Bike as the winner in Santiago. KAPPO Bike’s platform helps cities increase the urban bicycle usage worldwide through gamification and safety navigation, while also providing insights and predictive analytics for urban planning. Creating value by engaging in climate-friendly mobility can help shift behavioral norms and help with our acceptance of more sustainable mobility options.
The World Bank Group’s Connect4Climate program supports the promotion of climate-friendly solutions through sporting activities. During the FIA Smart Cities event I emphasized our core message that there is opportunity in climate action, that building the new climate economy is really exciting for today’s innovators, startups and technology developers: “We need to embrace the solutions and new technologies that will drive our future.”
For our planet, it really is a race against time. Let’s make that race electric and powered by renewables. 


Max Thabiso Edkins

Communications Specialist, Connect4Climate

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