A new series of high-speed electric car races will spark interest in battery powered vehicles, it’s been claimed.
Formula E plans to stage the first of its city-based extravaganzas in Beijing next September.
Its chief executive Alejandro Agag said the excitement of cars racing at speeds of 220 kph (135 mph) through the heart of cities including London, Miami and Los Angeles should help electric vehicles to shrug off an image problem and fine-tune their technologies.
“Electric cars are still perceived as slow, even as ugly or not cool, something that people don’t want to buy for their day-to-day lives,” said Agag, who is investing $100 million in the series with fellow Spaniard Enrique Banuelos.
“We want Formula E to be the place where all those technologies are tested, where all those advances happen,” Agag told a presentation in London.
A study from consultancy EY claims the races could help to boost electric vehicle sales by as much as 77 million units over the next 25 years – a dramatic increase on current levels.
New York-based market research firm ABI for instance estimates global electric car sales will reach 150,000 this year and grow 48 percent annually to reach 2.3 million in 2020.
However the Formula E contest could also show the range limitations of current battery technology, since each vehicle can only be driven for 25 minutes before the driver will have to swap to another.
Organisers see the 10-team series as complementary to F1, a glamorous money-spinner that attracts global television audiences of hundreds of millions.
Agag said he expected the races to appeal more to families, helped by the absence of the ear-splitting engine noise that is part of the Formula One experience. Tickets will be cheaper too.
“We are Formula One fans so this isn’t any kind of competition, but our price range is going to be lower.”
Formula E has signed up Rupert Murdoch’s Fox to broadcast its races in the United States and more than 80 other territories. Agag promised plenty of thrills and spills.
“We expect quite a few bumps, tyres are very hard, with very early braking, and slippery circuits unknown to the driver.”