The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will hit its century on Sunday in Seoul, with the 100th race rounding out the eighth season of the electric race series.
From day zero to race 100, Formula E has come a long way. What started as nothing more than a shared dream between Formula E Founder Alejandro Agag and FIA President Jean Todt, noted on the back of a napkin back in 2011 in a Paris restaurant, has developed into the fastest growing motorsport series on the planet - now an FIA World Championship, approaching its centenary round.
The championship toughed out a difficult opening few months and went on to hook the might of the world's automotive manufacturers and motorsport's top talent inside a turbulent first year. Now, it's established and heading into a big next step with Gen3. Here's our major achievements along the way.
Founded with purpose
On the evening of March 3, 2011, FIA President Jean Todt and Formula E Chairman Alejandro Agag, met in a Paris restaurant and gathered their thoughts in just a few words on the back of a napkin what would become the world's first all-electric international single-seater championship.
Formula E’s founding mission was for its race through the streets of the most iconic cities in the world - with a grid full of the best racing drivers and teams around - to show just what sustainable mobility was capable of, driving electric vehicles to the fore in the race for a better, cleaner future.
In just three years, Formula E made it from concept to reality - through prototypes, innovative EV technology for the race track and on to Gen1, with the first race taking place eight years ago on the series' global bow in the grounds of the Olympic Park in Beijing.
Since making its debut, Formula E has grown into a global entertainment brand with motorsport at its heart. Now, with 11 teams and 22 drivers on the grid, the championship has become a destination for the world's best motorsport teams and racing talent.
Formula E’s founding purpose has since evolved into an all-encompassing race for better futures through racing in alignment with the FIA's #PurposeDriven movement - driving its environmental, economic and social sustainability initiatives around the world.
“I say many times that I’m the founder of Formula E,” recalls Agag, “but the real founder of Formula E is Jean Todt. He had the idea of introducing an electric car championship, and I said, ‘I would love to be the promoter of that’.”
Indeed, the FIA and Formula E were pioneers in the promotion of sustainable mobility, as former FIA President Todt explains: “The world is changing very quickly; when looking at the evolution of motoring, we recognised it was important to define a motor sport category which would be green and encourage people in cities to use electric cars. We clearly identified the need to do something – and Formula E was the answer.”
Formula E's initial concept car
"Since we started this journey, Formula E has undoubtedly gone from strength to strength. The commitment and professionalism of those manufacturers and their respective teams is mirrored in the quality of the driver roster, which has improved with every season. Since its first race in Beijing in 2014 and with every E-Prix thereafter, Formula E has proven that the concept of cutting-edge electric racing works," Todt added.
Driving a technological revolution
Since Formula E's early development, its on-track technology is ever-evolving and has undergone revolutionary changes over soon-to-be three generations.
In Season 1, back in 2014, Formula E ushered in a revolution with the all-electric open-wheel Gen1 car - a first of its kind in motorsport.
The championship waved goodbye to that initial era of mid-race car swaps and welcomed the next step-change in technology for Formula E with Gen2 in Season 5. More power and almost twice the usable energy capacity, effectively doubling range despite its battery being about the same size and weight as its predecessor.
Raw pace and performance kicked on a notch, too. Power output jumped from 150kW to 200kW in race trim between Season 1 and Season 6, with ATTACK MODE yielding a further 10kW and qualifying mode boosting power to 250kW. This shaved 0.2 seconds off the 0-100km/h sprint, which now sits at 2.8 seconds, and pushing top speed up to 280km/h (174mph) from 225km/h (140mph).
READ MORE: The new era: Gen3
The Gen3 Formula E sees another huge leap forward in terms of performance on-track, and not only that but it's going to be more sustainably-produced than ever before. 200mph is the new top speed, with a 0-60mph time sitting beneath Gen2's 2.8-second mark.
Developed by engineers and sustainability experts at the FIA and Formula E, the Gen3 is the pinnacle of high performance, efficiency and sustainability. Designed to show the world that high performance and sustainability can powerfully co-exist without compromise, the Gen3 pioneers cutting-edge technologies that will make the transfer from race to road.
Power is kicked up from 250kW peak to 350kW at around 95% powertrain efficiency, versus about 40% for a performance ICE unit. Regen is upped by a new front powertrain which doubles capacity to 600kW of recovery and means the car is the first formula car to run without hydraulic rear brakes and more than 40% of energy used in the race is produced by regenerative braking. Ultra-high speed charging of 600kW is also on-board - double that of the most advanced commercial chargers in the world.
READ MORE: Gen3 explained by the FIA's architect Alessandra Ciliberti
On top of that, the car's lighter, smaller and more sustainable. It's been designed from the ground-up to be a benchmark in sustainability on-track. Life-cycle thinking is at its core with linen and recycled carbon fibre bodywork, sustainably-sourced minerals in its batteries, natural rubber and recycled fibres making up more than 1/4 of the material in Gen3's tyres and the car complies with top international environmental standards.
Eight seasons of world-class motorsport
"For all the undeniable growth Formula E has experienced, it still feels the same to me," starts Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls. "I still have the exact same buzz before a race that I have had ever since that fourth race in Buenos Aires. That was the race that showed me what Formula E could be, and what the sporting proposition of this championship is all about; intense, unpredictable motor racing."
INTERVIEW: How Formula E's electric dream became reality
In eight seasons, Formula E has thrown everything motorsport has to offer at its fans. Countless last-lap battles for the lead, titles decided with minutes left on the clock in the final moments of the season and world-class drivers crowned. Keep your eyes across fiaformulae.com post-season for a look back at the best of Formula E's first 100.
Read Jack's retrospective here.
Race track to road
On the road, the number of electric car models has increased by over six times since Formula E's first season, with more than 175 now available in Europe.
As with the Gen2 car and from next year, and the continuing evolution of Formula E's on-track tech heading towards the Gen3, range and battery capacity has also moved on leaps and bounds in consumer EVs.
WATCH: How racing can drive innovation for a better future
The best-selling EV in the world since 2015 has seen its battery capacity and range treble compared with the original 2015 model. In the same five-year spell, the number of EV chargers in Europe has increased more than three times over, with some 170,000 now built into infrastructure across the continent.
"As technology develops, electric cars will be able to go faster and further. The pace of development is incredible," says 2016/17 Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi. "The point at which electric cars are cheaper, safer and easier to operate than combustion-engined cars is not far away at all and Formula E is accelerating that process. Combustion won’t be able to keep up.
"The purpose is to create a better, cleaner, safer future for mankind with innovation and technology. In general, people will naturally go for convenience and necessity, as well as the cheapest, best solution for them.
"So, we need to create technology that fills this gap and serves this purpose, then, the best option will be the most sustainable one – that’s the win-win situation to chase.”
Di Grassi will become the first and only driver to join the 100 club and is set to make himself a Formula E centurion this weekend at the inaugural Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix Rounds 15 & 16, with Sunday's race bringing up that landmark. He's been here since day one, and before.
"I think the championship has evolved," says the Brazilian. "Everybody can see that’s the case. Since Season 1, there have been massive changes – it has matured and it has moved from being something new and full of doubts to something which has been able to deliver on its promises.
INTERVIEW: Read the full catch-up with di Grassi as he approaches race 100
"The next big thing is Gen3 which has huge potential. We’ll drive much faster, smaller and lighter cars which will be even more impressive to see on-track. The events are going in the right direction, providing a better and better product for fans to come and involve themselves with. The evolution will continue in this way – on the technical side and in the spectacle."
"On 100 races, it’s a privilege for me. My career would have not been anything close to what it was without this. It opened up businesses and jobs for people with the combination of sustainability with motorsport and it’s done a lot of things for a lot of people.
Di Grassi feels Formula E will continue to evolve and take its position as a leader in driving sustainable tech and practices forward as the series approaches its next era and Gen3.
"We can see that there have been many hundreds of millions watching these first 100 races and we’ve also seen how much technology has been accelerated by the automakers in these eight seasons. We can also see how many more people are interested in and aware of electric vehicles.
"For me, even if you help a little bit, this little bit has already helped to accelerate the advent of technology and change perceptions of consumers and manufacturers about electric cars – so it’s been well worth it.
"Formula E, over the last eight seasons, has served its duty of making electric cars sexy and making sure they’re in people’s consciousness. Now, we’re entering the second stage of things. The championship and technology is established and encouraging evolution is the next step."
Net zero from inception
In 2020, Formula E announced that it had become the first sport with a net zero carbon footprint since inception, investing in internationally certified projects in all of its race regions to offset emissions from every season to-date.
Formula E has followed three key steps to achieve a net zero carbon footprint: effective measurement of carbon output, prioritising reducing its footprint and offsetting remaining unavoidable emissions.
Working closely with Quantis, the leading life cycle assessment and sustainability experts, Formula E has been calculating the overall footprint of the championship since its inaugural season, with a continual focus on lowering emissions.
Its emission reduction measures, including optimising transport and logistics, extending end-of-life options for lithium-ion battery cells and cutting out single-use plastics on site, led to Formula E becoming the first and only racing category to receive third-party ISO 20121 certification for sustainable events.
READ MORE: How Formula E achieves Net Zero
Unavoidable emissions from the past six seasons have now also been certified as offset through investment in Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard UN projects in line with the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism.
The projects selected are socially sustainable, advance renewable energy production and maximise the environmental benefits of electric cars, building on Formula E’s work to date to deliver positive, tangible legacies in race markets.
To ensure the championship continues to advance its vision and objectives, Formula E reports and evaluates progress annually, using recognitions to reinforce and legitimise its efforts.
Since the inaugural 2014/15 campaign, Formula E has become:
- The first motorsport championship to achieve third party ISO20121 certification, by certification body SGS. This certification ensures events are managed in a sustainable way, promoting social inclusivity, economic prosperity and environmental protection
- A signatory of the UNFCCC's Climate Neutral Now initiative in 2020 and adherent to the UNFCCC's Sports for Climate Action Framework - supporting all levels of society to take climate action to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement
- The first championship to be awarded FIA’s Environmental Accreditation at Three-Star level
- A signatory of the EU 2030 letter supporting the UN’s global Race to Zero campaign for a decarbonised economy that guards against future threats, creates quality employment opportunities and nurtures inclusive, sustainable growth
- A founding member and signatory of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Sports for Climate Action programme
- A signatory of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cut across every area of our business practise. Formula E directly contributes to 9 of the 17 SDGs, thanks to its promotion of electric vehicles, partnerships to fight climate change and support of technological advancements
- A signatory of The Climate Group’s RE100 initiative with CDP, to support influential companies working towards 100 per cent renewable energy targets
- A UNICEF partner, supporting the Safe and Healthy Environment Fund, helping create a better, more sustainable future for children around the world