‘Electrification, Environment and Equality’ – Reporter Katie Willy speaks to Alejandro Agag, Extreme E Founder about the future of motor racing.
Lewis Hamilton hit the headlines this week when he announced that he has created his own race team, X44, which will debut as part of a new series, Extreme E, designed to highlight the Climate Crisis and promote Electric Vehicles (EVs) in sport.
Scheduled to air in early 2021, the series will virtually transport audiences to 5 remote regions, each already suffering the impacts of climate change.
Races will take part in the arctic, the desert, the ocean, at glaciers and in the Amazon, with an aim to highlight the immediate threats to these environments, including melting ice caps, desertification, rising sea levels, plastic pollution and deforestation.
Alejandro Agag, Extreme E Founder and CEO, told Environment Journal: ‘Extreme E was created to showcase E-SUV innovation and performance, whilst raising awareness, inspiring action and highlighting the impact of climate change and environmental degradation.
‘More people watch sport than watch science documentaries, and with 30% of global carbon emissions coming from transport, Extreme E believes it can use its powerful media platform to shine a spotlight on the issues we face, and the need to act now to help protect our futures.
‘Extreme E’s goal is to have a net-zero carbon footprint by the end of its first Season. Alongside this, the series is committing to legacy initiatives at each destination which help protect already damaged ecosystems impacted by climate change.’
The company has taken a significant step towards net-zero by utilising sea transportation, which it estimates will reduce emissions by two-thirds compared to air travel.
The RMS St Helena is a 7,000 tonne former Royal Mail vessel which will not only transport all logistics and freight during the series but will also act as the operational base and garage.
The ship has undergone a multi-million-pound refurbishment to make it fit for such specific purpose, and in doing so it has been converted to run on low-sulphur marine diesel.
The promotion and advancement of these clean technologies are a fundamental aspect underpinning the company’s mission statement, which describes its series as ‘the first sport to ever be built out of a social purpose’.
Alejandro Agag added: ‘Extreme E will see cutting-edge electric vehicles race head-to-head in five of the world’s most remote and extreme environments, showcasing EV innovation and performance.
‘This will prove to be a significant research and development platform for manufacturers, allowing lessons to be taken from the race-track to the road, driving further innovative advancements in sustainable mobility, and its broader global uses.’
A formidable team of experts has been established to advise organisers on their climate research and implementation of practices; this extends beyond logistics to education programmes and positive legacy initiatives, which will also aim to support local communities and environments in each location where races take place.
The team of academics is headed by Professor Peter Wadhams, head of Ocean Physics at Cambridge, who himself has completed 55 Arctic expeditions, and strongly backs the use of EVs he said: ‘I fully support Extreme E’s platform of using motorsport to showcase electric vehicles and promote their adoption as an impactful solution to our planet’s future health.’
The company is also striving to address another deep-rooted issue in racing: gender equality. Motorsports have long been perceived as a male-dominated industry, and the controversial 2018 decision by Formula 1 to ban ‘Grid Girls’ from its events left many promotional models feeling they had had no say in the decision to axe their livelihoods.
‘The core subjects Extreme E promotes are electrification, environment and equality,’ said Alejandro Agag
‘It offers a world-first equal gender motor racing format, as each team will feature a male and female driver who will race on the same course, one lap apiece, in the same race, providing a level playing field for competitors.’
While undoubtedly an ambitious programme, there seems to be a real promise that Extreme E will prove to be trailblazers in encouraging the motor industry to embrace new technologies and ideas, as our common sense of urgency around the climate crisis continues to gain momentum.
As Lewis Hamilton says: ‘Every single one of us has the power to make a difference, and it means so much to me that I can use my love of racing, together with my love for our planet, to have a positive impact.’
Photo Credit – Extreme E