FACT: Governments in France, India, Norway and the UK have all pledged to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. At least 10 other countries have set similarly ambitious targets and the effects are being felt far and wide in capital cities around the world. It now costs an extra £10 a day to drive through central London with old, polluting engines and Paris has announced it will ban all petrol cars by 2030.
The global automotive industry is reacting. Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover recently committed to only producing electric and hybrid cars by 2019/2020 with Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo CEO, proclaiming his announcement “marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.”
Amid all of this, the FIA Formula E Championships, motorsport’s first electric street racing series, is about to enter its fourth season and is moving from strength to strength. Corporate sponsors are flocking and automotive manufacturers see it as a development laboratory to progress technology used in the next generation of electric cars.
Nissan is the latest manufacturer to join, the first Japanese company to do so. BMW, Official Automotive Partner since the inaugural season, has also extended its association with the series. Both will establish race teams for the 2018/19 season meaning nine manufactures are now confirmed for Season Five with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche also committed for Season Six (2019-20).
Critics argue the series is not yet universally popular and the racing substandard. However, with growing consumer momentum towards electric vehicles and Formula E a metaphorical shop window for electric innovation, can manufacturers afford not to be part of motorsport’s electric showpiece?
The brands of North America are the series’ most notable absentees. With double header race weekends in New York and Montreal next summer and new technology set to be introduced in Season Five including the omission of car change overs (a major barrier to entry for BMW), could this be the catalyst required for a North American marque to finally sign up? Time will tell, but for now, roll on Hong Kong and the start of Season Four.