The evolution of motorsport in the age of sustainability
REVISED SEP 1, 2023
In a world where environmental consciousness is becoming increasingly vital, the realm of motorsport has taken a significant stride towards sustainability with the emergence of “Green Motorsport”. This innovative approach to racing is rewriting the rules, demonstrating that speed, competition, and environmental responsibility can harmoniously coexist on the track.
Green Motorsport emphasises the development and utilisation of eco-friendly technologies, alternative fuels, and carbon-neutral practices within the innovative world of car and other motorised vehicle racing. Traditional motorsport has often been criticised for its carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. Green Motorsport is changing this narrative.
The global stage for electric racing cars is the Formula E (FE) World Championship. It is sanctioned by the FIA, the governing body for many racing car events (including F1). Its mission is to accelerate change towards a sustainable future. Its cars race in cities such as Monaco, Rome, Berlin, Jakarta, Portland and London. FE is a catalyst for pushing technological boundaries. It fosters rapid innovation and efficiency gains that often trickle down to consumer electric vehicles (EVs).
At the heart of FE lies a dedication to reducing emissions and utilising renewable energy sources. Electric powertrains have become poster children for this movement, showcasing remarkable acceleration and performance while emitting zero carbon.
(On 30 July, I attended the last race of the 2023 season in London with my family and friends – we had a great time. Andretti driver Jake Dennis – car 27 – won the drivers’ championship. Envision Racing won the teams’ championship.)
There are several other championships and initiatives that are actively exploring innovative technologies and practices to reduce their environmental impact. Some of these include:
- Extreme E: an off-road racing series that promotes awareness of climate change and its effects, featuring electric SUVs racing in remote and environmentally vulnerable locations around the world. It also promotes gender equality by mandating that all teams consist of a female and a male driver
- Extreme H: The FIA and Extreme E announced plans for Extreme H, an off-road racing series powered by hydrogen fuel cells, to start in 2025, with potential FIA World Championship recognition in 2026, highlighting the rapid growth and commitment to hydrogen-powered racing
- Le Mans Hydrogen-powered prototypes: a prototype class exploring the use of both hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen internal combustion engine technologies in endurance racing, with the goal of demonstrating the viability of hydrogen as a sustainable fuel
- World Rally Championship: the first FIA racing series to use renewable fuels, produced using energy from renewable sources only
- World Solar Challenge: solar-powered vehicles racing across long distances, promoting renewable energy technologies
- MotoE: a class of motorcycle racing that uses only electric motorcycles, sanctioned by the FIM, the governing body of motorcycle racing
- E1: an electric race boat championship, sanctioned by the UIM, the governing body of powerboating
- E-Karting: karts running with electric powertrains
- eSkootrs: an electric scooter racing series
Alejandro Agag, a Spanish businessman based in London, is the man behind Formula E (1st race in 2014), Extreme E (2021), E1 (2023) and Extreme H (2025). Extreme E is set to continue its operations in 2024, but plans regarding its future, especially its integration with Extreme H, are yet to be determined.
At the Olympics
Karting, a popular form of grassroots motorsport, is also embracing sustainability and eco-friendliness in various ways. The FIA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) joined forces to introduce E-Karting as the first motorsport at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, and to aim to include it at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
The inclusion in the Games is a complex and selective process. It requires the support of various stakeholders. It also requires a demonstration of the sport’s global appeal, competitive structure, and alignment with the overarching goals of the Olympic movement.
Electric karting at the Olympics could be a fantastic way to reach a wide, non-motorsport audience. It could showcase cleantech advancements and help accelerate sustainable change further.
The emergence of Green Motorsport is a definitive step towards a more sustainable future in motorsport and beyond. It stands as a testament to the sector’s commitment to addressing environmental concerns and adapting to a changing world. Formula E teams include big names, such as Andretti (US), Jaguar (GB), Maserati (IT), McLaren (GB), Nissan (JP), and Porsche (DE). Andretti and McLaren also compete in Extreme E, where former F1 champions Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have their own teams.
Andretti’s FE title sponsor is Avalanche, a blockchain well-suited for building Decentralised Finance (DeFi) applications. It also helps Andretti with its apps. This shows that there are opportunities for fintech and cleantech to work together. P27 works with organisations in both sectors and plans to facilitate more partnerships between the two.
(Well before working in finance, I raced karts – my first number was 27 – and worked for Fiat with former Ferrari F1 and Abarth engineers… This summer, just before the FE final race weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting a senior member of the Andretti team at Bloomberg. I had to write this article!)
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