Executive Interview | Sustainability
Business Enquirer sits down with Formula E Sustainability Director, Julia Palle to discuss Formula E’s forward acts as a vehicle for positive change for the next generation.
The year 2021 may have been challenging for the car industry in light of the global chip shortage, however, the global electric vehicle market suggests otherwise. With world governments offering incentives such as subsidies, toll exemptions, and grants, as well as car manufacturers constantly developing better technologies, the appetite for electric vehicles is becoming near insatiable. Fortunately, in a time where sustainability is a leading concern, this is an appetite that the world can afford to encourage.
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship actively promotes electric mobility and renewable energy solutions to contribute to air pollution reduction and the fight against worldwide climate change. In September 2020, the championship became the first global sport to be certified with a net-zero carbon footprint from inception.
What began as a few scribbles on a napkin between FIA President Jean Todt and Formula E Chairman Alejandro Agag has become a worldwide entertainment brand with motorsport and sustainability at its very heart. Julia Pallé, Sustainability Director at Formula E, elaborated on the championship’s purpose-driven mission to accelerate change towards an electric future – one race, and one city at a time.
“It’s been central to the success of Formula E to have our leadership very committed to sustainability; taking it as a strategic central DNA dimension of the championship. Formula E is like the Ying and the Yang – it’s the racing and reason. You need the sport to inspire people, to touch their heart, their minds, and their souls. The sport is the vehicle to convey the sustainability message.
“It gives me personal pride to be able to wake up every day and work for a business that is trying to change the world. I need that meaningful element, that direction, that feeling that we do something for the greater good. The reality is that when I started my career, motorsport was not an environment that was ready for sustainability. It probably felt a little contradictory if not paradoxical in the beginning, but I’m very proud to see where Formula E has gone,” asserted Julia.
From the track to the street
In addition to inspiring fans to lead more sustainable lifestyles, Formula E is delivering on its mission to promote electrification on the streets through continued technological developments. What makes these innovations even more exciting is the impact on the global electric vehicle market and what it means for the end-user.
“Over the fourth season, we managed to double the battery capacity of our cars, which had a positive effect on the rest of the global battery industry. These innovations are transferred straight into the battery electric vehicles that we drive globally. We have an important lineup of car manufacturers who ultimately develop and customize their own technologies.
“Jaguar has been with us almost since the very beginning of the championship. In just a few seasons, they managed to develop technologies that were transferred into their I-Pace electric SUV. That’s something that testifies that the technology transfer is strong and active within Formula E,” explained Julia.
Season eight of Formula E is underway and anticipation has been building regarding the unveiling of the championship’s third-generation electric vehicle. Gen3 is tipped to be the world’s most efficient racing car with a top speed of 200 miles per hour and maximum power of 350kw. Julia described how Gen3 would act as an intersection of the championship’s main values:
“Gen3 is going to be the pinnacle of performance, technology, and sustainability. Clear thought was given to the end of life and the impact throughout the life of the car when designing the first tire, the first battery, the first chassis, and so on. This will be a step up; one the wider motorsport industry can look at and be inspired to deliver in the future…”
Sustainability as DNA
Formula E’s vision of advancing electrification has compounded to include more aspects of the global sustainability campaign. During the Covid-19 crisis, it became apparent that children were deeply impacted by the pandemic. This inspired collaboration between Formula E and UNICEF, one that was so successful it evolved into a long-term partnership in support of UNICEF’s Safe and Healthy Environment Fund, which aims to create a sustainable and clean environment for children.
The pandemic also provided a surprising opportunity to reassess some of the championship’s processes concerning their events. Due to Covid restrictions, buffets were no longer a viable catering option. Formula E took a different approach by serving portion-controlled meals in recyclable boxes which led to a drastic reduction in food waste, which is now close to zero. In terms of plastic, automotive insurer Allianz has assisted Formula E to phase out single-use plastics from events by implementing hydration stations and reusable vessels. In just a season and a half, the organization has saved the equivalent of 300 000 plastic bottles.
“When you come to our events, you get a day in the life of what a sustainable future looks like. It’s attractive and exciting with the cars and racing, but you also get to enjoy vegetarian recipes and entertainment for the children around renewable energy. There are also discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion, with our Girls on Track program where we invite young girls from diverse social backgrounds to join us and be inspired about a potential career in motorsport,” shared Julia.
What is next in the race for reason?
The Formula E championship acts as a laboratory to test and solve issues around wider electrification. Charging infrastructure has been a constraint from a consumer perspective in terms of the number of charging points available and charging speed. In the case of the former, the world is catching up and the number of stations is increasing. Concerning the latter issue, Formula E is currently working on new ultra-fast charging solutions that will make this a worry of the past.
Formula E’s leadership, as demonstrated by Julia’s passion, will continue to drive the future of the motorsport:
“We’re here to accelerate sustainable human progress and give concrete solutions for sustainable lifestyles that are not going to feel like less. They’re going to be perceived as the coolest thing because we know that the next generation, Gen Z, is inherently demanding purpose, especially when consuming entertainment and sport.
“I’m amazed to see how the rest of the motorsport industry has taken up the challenge of sustainability and it’s at the forefront of the rest of the sports industry. It’s not a nice to have anymore, but a must-have.”
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