The Sustainable Future of Motorsport

Words by Emma Gray

The ABB Formula E championship was designed in 2011 with the intention of being a sustainable, innovative and electric vehicle-based competition in the world of motorsport. This was a unique principle in a petrol-dominated industry. 2014 saw its first year in action with races in eleven countries across four continents and the intention to “show just what sustainable mobility was capable of, driving electric vehicles to the fore in the race for a better, cleaner future.” Now embarking upon its 8th season with a total of 16 races; Formula E, its drivers, and their teams, continue to show the potential future for motorsport that does not have to damage our planet further in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and growing landfill from damaged vehicles. This article highlights some of the successful ways in which the championship has been able to show that it plans to make big progress in the future towards sustainability in multiple forms such as gender equality and doing their part to reduce harmful gas emissions into the air.

It is important to note that the aim of the championship is not to take away from the excitement of Formula 1 racing, but rather to pioneer a branch of motor racing dedicated to the vehicles of the future that minimise their impact on the environment. Furthermore, Formula E produces seasonal reports backing up their positive impact on the environment compared to other motorsports. Some of the highlights from the 2020 to 2021 season include reducing the tyres used by 25% on single-header (one race) weekends resulting in a 29% reduction in related emissions. In addition, there has been the introduction of a recycling programme that finds uses for parts of the car damaged in prior races to minimise the impact on landfill waste.

Formula E has also been working in partnership with companies such as DHL and climate activists like Finn Harries to create sustainable solutions for communities outside of the world of motor racing. One such initiative was the DHL Future Visionaries competition, of which I had the pleasure and delight of being a finalist for. The finalists presented their visions for a way to make their local communities more sustainable to an audience composed of many key figures within Formula E and DHL such as Julia Pallé, the Formula E Director of Sustainability.  Two were chosen to attend the Formula E race weekend in London as well as receiving a €2,500 bursary to help them achieve their goals and support their community solutions. William and Ahmed created potential solutions for turning scrap paper into hand sanitiser and the generation of power at events through fans themselves. By supporting these initiatives, Formula E in connection with DHL has been supporting grassroots sustainability initiatives outside of motorsport to benefit the wider communities they visit. 

Furthermore, the ABB Formula E championship is about more than climate change and environmental sustainability – it is about a sustainable future in general, including a desire for gender equality. Through the campaign of FIA Girls on Track, the FIA (governing board in the motorsport community) hope to encourage more women to become drivers. This initiative is directed by many leading names in Formula E and motorsport in general – including Susie Wolff, former team principle of the Formula E ROKit Venturi Team turned CEO. Susie Wolff and the rest of the founding members’ dedication to encouraging females to participate in a sport widely dominated by men is a breath of fresh air.  

ABB Formula E championship recently took part in the COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow 2021 demonstrating their commitment to becoming a sport of the future. A range of important names within Formula E came forward to share their views on the impact the championship currently has on the environment and how they plan to create an even more sustainable sport in the future. For example, Formula E’s CEO James Reigle was present alongside Lucas De Grassi, a driver for ROKit Venturi. Through active attendance and engagement in the events and conferences throughout the two-week event, they were able to express their support and assurance on their willingness for Formula E to be a sport for positive change.

The reduction of landfill waste, the promotion of electric vehicles as a valid branch of motorsport and change may seem minimal today when companies and initiatives are constantly trying to reinvent themselves as better for the environment, in turn increasing sales for the eco-conscious consumer. However, Formula E has proven their commitment to a future of gender equality and sustainability beyond claims through active engagement in communities and important events discussing the future of both motorsport and the liveability of Earth. 

If anyone in the United Kingdom is interested in watching the ABB Formula E Championship, the season is being broadcast live on Channel 4 on Live TV and YouTube.  

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