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Extreme E: The Electric Odyssey championing equality and sustainability

Prior to their launch event, we were lucky enough to chat with Extreme E about their exciting new racing concept which is set to revolutionise 21st century motorsports

Extreme E is hot on people’s minds, even more so since the announcement that 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg will be entering a team. The series which will feature electric SUVs is truly shaping up to be a great spectacle to watch, as well as hoping to have a much wider impact on the planet. 

The three pillars of Extreme E are essentially Equality, Electrification and Environment and they have great plans in place to shape all three areas. They chatted to us about diversity, public engagement and much more.

Equality & Diversity

One thing that’s drawn public attention to the championship is the stipulated clause that each team has to have one male and one female driver. Here at Females in Motorsport, we think this is a great step in getting more women in race seats - especially in electric racing. When asked about their motivation behind this, Extreme E stated that it was “to try and get more women involved at the top of motorsport and really to provide a level playing field for women to compete against men”. This just shows that they are serious about gender equality and are willing to enact the steps needed to make change.

Extreme E test driver Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky. Credit: Extreme E / Spacesuit Media

Thankfully there has been little negativity about the provisions for women in the championship. “It has been really well received, and why shouldn’t it be! Everyone has welcomed it,” they told us. 

“We would like to be as diverse as possible as a championship.” Extreme E made this clear when asked about other areas the championship can champion diversity in. They noted X44’s, the team managed by Lewis Hamilton, commitment to giving opportunities to people from as many different backgrounds as possible. X44 will be a platform for change in this way. Extreme E hopes that other teams will subsequently follow this lead. 

Credit: Extreme E / Spacesuit Media

Education & Electrification

“It’s about education and raising awareness,” Extreme E states.

They want to help engage people with how serious the Climate Crisis is and their choice of race venues highlights this. “We chose remote locations on purpose,” they said. “These are places that have been detrimentally affected by climate change and this is to bring a spotlight to them.”

By highlighting these locations it will help demonstrate “how our behaviour is affecting other areas of the world”. Next year’s calendar will see races in Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Greenland and Brazil. These locations cover the Arctic, desert, the Amazon and coastal locations - areas that are under immense climate strain.

Putting a spotlight onto the gravity of our current climate issues to viewers is vital. It will put real images of the damage being done to these global locations in the forefront of the minds of viewers.

In each location Extreme E “aims to leave a long lasting positive impact”. They plan to do this by implementing legacy programmes in each location. In Senegal, alongside Senegal Legacy Partner, Extreme E has announced the EcoZone project which will help the Lac Rose community make long term change. Areas of focus include experiential learning, regenerative agriculture, tree planting and eco-construction.

Credit: Extreme E / Spacesuit Media

In addition, Extreme E is keen to combat mass consumerism and elevate electrification to a wider audience. “The whole aim is to raise awareness of the Climate Crisis and promote steps people can take in their everyday lives,” they said. “Whether that is getting an electric car, using more public transport or looking into a plant based diet.” 

Obviously there is a role for big companies to play but as Extreme E says: “As a community we can all make a difference and reduce our carbon footprint.” We can all make some kind of change to our lifestyle.

“We have a scientific committee made up of academics from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and they advise us on our legacy programmes and sustainability,” they say. “The championship is not complacent and is continually looking at ways we can be more sustainable.” Adapting to our changing planet is a must for the sport to be sustained in the future.

In terms of the work force Extreme E says, “It's a broad mix of where people have come from, they have come from a variety of different backgrounds.” Some have worked in sustainability and electric racing roles before and others are approaching this for the first time. It’s good to see we still have people turning their focus to the area, demonstrating the change in attitude we are seeing across the sport, and more broadly across society. 

Focusing on the teams there is that same mix, for Chip Ganassi Racing this is their first electric racing endeavour. After thirty years in motorsport with victories at Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans, it is great to see the team turn their focus to electric racing which they see as the future of the sport. 

Credit: Extreme E

Even at this early stage CUPRA is already on board as a manufacturer working with ABT. CUPRA is part of the SEAT Group, working on its electrified models. Extreme E believes it's “good to have them on board before we’ve started racing”. This just shows that “there is a good level of confidence in the championship”.

Environmental Impact

Obviously keeping their environmental impact low is vital to Extreme E’s ethos and philosophy. In fact, they are committed to having a net-zero carbon footprint by the end of their first season. 

A key difference to other championships is that there will be no spectators at any of Extreme E’s races. As a result of this, their broadcast package is going to be key and they have been working hard to partner with broadcasters across the world. The lack of spectators will truly help to keep the championship’s environmental impact as low as possible. 

St Helena, a repurposed Royal Mail ship, will become Extreme E’s floating vessel - essentially a ‘floating garage’ - which will transport the cargo to each race location. They have chosen to do this “because using sea freight reduces carbon footprint significantly in comparison to air travel. So that’s why the ship is really really important”.

Additionally, Extreme E has recently announced their partnership with the Enel Foundation who will become their Founding Scientific Partner. With the foundation they have put out “an open call to scientists to come on board the St Helena and conduct research between the legs. We will be using it as a platform to gather research and do investigations into what’s happening with the Climate Crisis and what can be done”. The impact of this series will go far beyond just being a motorsport championship.

Other partners include AFC Energy, the pioneers of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Extreme E will be the first series to use such technology, which is a process that emits zero greenhouse emissions and the only by-product being water. 

To encourage plant based diets, the championship has partnered with Neat Burger whose products are one hundred percent plant based, ethical and delicious! Neat Burger is already held in high esteem by many, including Lewis Hamilton who is one of the company’s ambassadors. 

So far, Extreme E has found partners willing to work with them on their climate mission. “We have had really positive feedback about what the championship is all about,” they told us.

Credit: Extreme E

We can’t wait to watch Extreme E next year and think the whole ethos and approach of the championship is one to be admired. They have plans for the future too with the potential for new locations to be added and even more teams.


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