Julia Pallé, Sustainability Director at Formula E, explains how EV race cars have accelerated into world champions.
Transport is the fastest growing source of emissions worldwide, accounting for 37% of global greenhouse emissions. Road transport within this sector is the single largest source of emissions, with efforts aimed at reducing its environmental impact fundamental to countries meeting the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With road vehicles accounting for 69% of all transport emissions, the importance of electrification and a successful transition to electric vehicles (EVs) underpinned by the latest technology cannot be underestimated.
At Formula E, we see our role in helping bring about this change and technological evolution
as central to our mission. In fact, it’s why we began the championship in the first place – to be a test bed for some of the world’s largest automakers to accelerate the development and uptake of EVs. Part of this transition though is to do it in the most sustainable and efficient way possible, leveraging our sporting platform to engage, inspire and educate fans while the teams and their partners go head-to-head in a technological arms race.
Our work however always looks beyond motorsport; delving into positive social and environmental change that is a result of innovation from the teams and wider ecosystem. Creating value through shared values, ethos and action helps scale our mission and lean in on the expertise of all those involved in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
Track-to-road technology shaping the future of EV
This is why track-to-road technology plays such a big part in our mission and wider EV development. In developing a more efficient and sustainable race car, season after season, our teams and automotive manufacturers such as Porsche, McLaren, Maserati, Jaguar and Nissan push the limit of technological developments that can feed directly into their production of road cars. It’s an accolade that no other race series can showcase on the same scale and especially so when manufacturers and cities alike are committing to only produce or allow EVs in the coming years.
In turn, the number of electric car models on the road since our first season has increased six-fold. EV sales – including both battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) – exceeded 10 million last year globally, a 55% increase from 2022 with further growth ahead.
In Europe, there are now more than 175 different available EV models. Our race teams, including partners such as ABB, Bosch, SABIC and Hankook, are all using Formula E as a test bed for product and software innovation that contributes not only to that growth, but systematic development of the technology and sophistication within cars and infrastructure of the future.
For instance, from their involvement in Formula E, Jaguar was able to increase the range of its all-electric Jaguar I-PACE SUV range by 10% from efficiency software developed on the track.
Similarly, Nissan increased its battery capacity by 181% from on-track learnings, with DS Automobiles describing the opportunity within Formula E as like an ‘open air laboratory’.
Not only does it emphasise how wider societal impact is built into the fabric of our sport but highlights how sport can drive sustainability from the inside out. For us, this has meant directly contributing to the progress across e-mobility – which is a future we want to help pave the way for.
The world’s most efficient race car
The launch of our GEN3 car – the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built – was a momentous step forward in the development in cutting-edge EV technology.
While penned as a machine created at the intersection of high performance, efficiency and sustainability, it was also the first formula car aligned to life cycle thinking and circular by design.
Meaning that beyond its striking design, the car has a clear path towards second life and end of life for all tyres, broken parts, chassis and battery cells. This is especially important in a time when waste management, including of old cars, is a serious international concern.
We believe building this life cycle thinking into the way we innovate and develop will give us, our partners, and the EV market greater opportunities for insight – from production through to end-of-life recycling and repurposing. This framework also gives us greater foresight into the future challenges the EV market might face as it continues to evolve and the global rollout of EVs increases.
As the most sustainable race car ever built, the GEN3 bodywork features recycled carbon fibre from the retired GEN2 car, while its tyres are made from 26% recycled and sustainable materials and its batteries are some of the most advanced and sustainable ever made, consisting of sustainably sourced minerals used for the new cells that will then be fully recycled at end of life.
Moreover, it is well known within engineering circles that EVs and BEVs are far more efficient in energy terms than internal combustion engines. With the GEN3 car more than 95% efficient compared to just 40% of a similar combustion engine, and able to regenerate more than 40% of the energy needed for a race during the race thanks to regenerative breaking, it’s been likened to a ‘power station on wheels’.
Through combining world-leading technology and some of the most dramatic, entertaining and engaging racing we hope to inspire not only consumers to think more about the potential of EVs, but for other companies, organisations and governments to see their benefits too.
The world is undoubtably moving electric and those at the forefront are already riding the rising swell of innovation and interest around it. As a sport we are relatively young compared to the automotive industry, but we hope to play our part and use our technical test bed in helping the world embrace more sustainable lifestyles and for EV market to realise the full potential of an all-electric future.