Auto racing, which has long served as both a testing ground and source of commercial development of automotive technology, is going green.
The formally sanctioned racing organization, FIA Formula E Championship, was formed for the express purpose of promoting sustainable automotive technology. In 2013, it commissioned a study that was designed to measure "the global value of Formula E to the EV [electric vehicle] market over the next 25 years (2015-2040) and its wider economic, environmental and social impact." The authors of the study concluded that an all electric vehicle racing circuit would "help sell an additional 77 million EVs worldwide, save 4 billion barrels of oil and help make savings of 2 billion euros [$2.179 billion] in healthcare."
Study in hand, in September 2014 the group kicked-off its inaugural Formula E race season in Beijing --- the first stop on an international 10-race calendar. Appearing at Long Beach State University in advance of the 6th race, the Long Beach ePrix over this past weekend, Formula E Series CEO Alejandro Agag told students that the goal was to "fundamentally change how the public sees electric vehicles" and that "Formula E is the future."
In its pre-event coverage of the April 4 race in Long Beach, California, the L.A.Times reported that fans would be spared the noise of ordinary racing and that, instead of refueling, pit stops would involve the changing out of batteries. Formula E Series cars have plenty of horsepower, however, accelerating from 0 to 62 mph in 3 seconds, with maximum speeds topping out near 150 mph.
FIA Formula E is not the first racing organization to raise environmental concerns. In 2013, the Indy 500 addressed emission concerns via race cars that utilized "ethanol blends."
However, as observed by the Colombia Water Center, a number of "scientists argue that when the life cycle of ethanol production is compared to that of conventional gasoline, there may be no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at all." Citing an Argonne National Laboratory study, they note that corn ethanol is water intensive, consuming between "20 to 324 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol."
Of course, if FIA Formula E really wishes to advance sustainable technology, it should rely upon photovoltaic solar to recharge the batteries used in its race cars. As noted by the Sierra Club, electric vehicles that rely upon coal power plants "may emit more CO2 and SO2 pollution than hybrid electric vehicles."