Formula E is increasingly gaining grounds as a must-watch motorsport event. Now in its sixth season, its founder Alejandro Agag plans to launch an offroad competition to champion electric SUVs.
Electric vehicles are quickly moving into the mainstream with all the main automakers bidding to compete with Tesla, and other all-electric challengers. It wasn’t always the case. “Seven years ago it wasn’t so obvious that electric cars would play such an important role, but we did it at the right time, and that was lucky,” says Alejandro Agag Formula E CEO and chairman, speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Europe Summit in Berlin.
Formula E may have championed adoption of electrical vehicles but it has also faced brickbats for the environmental impact of the championship that was staged in 12 countries this year. “Nothing is completely green. We have a saying in Spain: ‘if you want to make an omelette, you need to break some eggs,’” said Agag. “You need a lot of fossil fuels to get out of the age of fossil fuels.”
Agag’s passion for auto racing is not limited to Formula E. The Madrid native recently created Extreme E, whose inaugural championship is planned for 2021.
“We wanted to do something for SUVs,” Agag says, explaining that the competition will see SUVs racing in areas around the world that have already been negatively affected by human activity or climate change, with a plan to leave them in a better state than they found them. For instance, one of the races will take place in a deforested area of the Amazon forest, which will then be re-forested every year. Others are planned in the Arctic, in a Himalayan valley, and along a plastic-ridden African beach.
“We get a lot of resistance to [the project], but the awareness we can raise and the legacy we can leave behind in those locations far outweighs the impact we have with the championship,” Agag says.
Sascha Meskendahl, chief revenue officer of Blacklane—a Berlin-based app that connects passengers to professional chauffeurs of luxury cars for airport and other medium-length journeys—is well aware of the need to turn a fossil fuel-based business green. “Since last year we are completely carbon neutral,” he claims.
As part of those efforts, in 2018 Blacklane launched the Green Class service—powered by Tesla’s electric vehicles. The service is not yet available worldwide, but only in a number of locations across the globe. In the company’s native Germany, the service is only available in one city—Munich. “We are limited in terms of vehicles available for this, the infrastructure available for this,” Meskendahl explains.
Agag thinks Formula E can be instrumental in creating a change in the car manufacturing space. “Today, car manufacturers are using Formula E to develop better technologies. Formula E is a platform to develop technology. The impact is real,” he says.
And while individuals and companies have a role to play to reduce carbon emissions, governments need to get involved, too. “As long as Trump is there we will delay the action on climate change around the world,” Agag says, adding: “Europe needs to take the leadership on climate action as long as the U.S. is not doing it.”