Formula E is as much a vehicle for the sustainable transition to renewable and carbon neutral energy as it is a top tier racing series, and at this month's annual United Nations Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC the only electric FIA World Championship was the only member of the sports industry to make its voice heard - as pioneers aiming to bring others into the fold and create mass, lasting change.
"What’s fantastic in sport is that sense of healthy competition," says Julia Palle, Formula E Sustainability Director. "As much as we’ve talked about leadership, we’re not doing things to say we’re the first – we’re doing it to show others that they can, and should, do the same. If a young sport that isn’t even 10 years old can do it, then anyone should be able to.
"We’ve got this unique position of being purpose driven and born with that purpose and that leads everything we do. The UN has created the UNFCCC Sport for Climate Action and we were among the founding members – contributing to the charter and framework because we understand how it’s not only our impact that will make a difference but the collective impact of us, millions of fans, our partners and automakers and ultimately other sports, too.
"We’re a sport designed for the next generation and we’re very much attracting younger fans. We want to ensure young people have a brighter future and get that conversation going – our position as an exciting, world class sport offers us that opportunity.
"What’s also unique to us is our audience put sustainability and climate change among their strongest interests, alongside social sustainability topics like diversity, equality and inclusion. They’re really supportive of the initiatives we’ve put in place alongside the likes of the UN and UNICEF – and it’s vital to us that we continue to include them in the conversation and showcase our shared values.
Leading the conversation
Being around the table alongside leaders and representatives from every major economy and more than 150 countries on the planet, as well as industry leaders from all corners, puts Formula E squarely in the conversation as to how sport, motor racing and the automotive industry and its supporting businesses can accelerate and lead the transition to a carbon neutral future.
"As a championship that has sustainability at its core, its message, it is very important for us to be present at international events like COP27 that lead the conversation on climate and sustainability," continues Palle. "We want to be a part of those conversations and showcase the leadership that we have – we’re pioneers in the way we’ve mixed sustainability and sport from the very beginning.
"Having a big presence at COP26 and being the only sport in attendance at COP27 is very important to us if we want to keep pushing our message out to new audiences and in shaping conversations around sport and its advocacy role in sustainability. It’s also testament to our role and a recognition of our leadership and contribution to the fight against climate change – not only through the technologies we’re developing but also the platform we offer for leading automotive names.
"We can really contribute to change behaviours - climate mitigation and a transition to CO2 free energy should be the top priority for everybody."
Gen3 and the future
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is all set for its next giant leap, with a new look for Season 9 marking the advent of the Gen3 era and the debut of the series’ third generation machine – the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built - as well as, by design, the most sustainable.
"Gen3 is setting the benchmark for world motorsport in terms of sustainable racing cars," says Palle. "Key requirements were put in the tender to make sure of this, and these are contractual obligations for all of the suppliers to Gen3 from the tyres to the batteries and bodywork – we want to ensure sustainability is trickling down through all we do.
"We’ve done a lifecycle assessment of the car to understand its most impactful areas and we’ve used those learnings to reduce the footprint of the Gen3, targeting a footprint lower than the average consumer passenger electric vehicle – that’s the target we’ve set ourselves.
"We abide by our industry standard FIA Three Star Environmental Accreditation and we have demanded Gen3’s suppliers do the same before even beginning the design process.
"The batteries obviously have a relatively large impact as a proportion of the car itself. They’re made of lithium which is a rare earth metal and is not the easiest to recycle or mine. We have made sure that our battery supplier’s source of lithium mines ethically and sympathetically, with a CSR grading of A – the highest standard in ethical mining. We also made sure that our supplier has a second life plan and an end of life plan for the cells and batteries altogether.
"The chassis uses recycled carbon fibre, which is a difficult process and an innovative one, and for the first time in motorsport, more than 25% of the Gen3’s tyres will come from sustainable or recycled sources – including natural rubber and used, recycled tyres.
"The overall aim is to make sure the carbon footprint of the car is lower than previous generations we’ve raced and that of an average road-going EV."