A Greener Formula E Begins Its Fifth Season in Saudi Arabia

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship begins its fifth season December 15 in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. GreenSportsBlog digs into the key sustainability advances the open wheel, all-electric vehicle (EV) series made during the off-season, as well as the challenges of doing business in Saudi Arabia in the current political climate. 

 

Did you know that, for each of its first four seasons, Formula E drivers had to swap cars during the race? That’s because the range per charge on the cars was not sufficient to finish a 50-minute race.

That changes with the start of season five this weekend — as a new era of electric racing begins with Formula E’s breakthrough Gen2 cars.

“Technological improvements on EV battery range will allow each driver to drive only one car per race,” said Julia Pallé, Formula E’s senior sustainability consultant. “Less ‘range anxiety’ is a big thing for Formula E drivers and EV drivers out on the open road.”

 

Julia_Palle_2016_HIGH RES

Julia Pallé, Senior Sustainability Consultant for Formula E (Photo credit: Formula E)

 

From reductions in team expenses and carbon emissions to smoother flowing races, the benefits of one car-per-race are clear for Formula E.

“Our drivers tested the new cars in October in Valencia, Spain,” shared Pallé. “They were super excited. Only one car was needed, and the new cars — with Spark chassis — a battery with double the storage capacity and also were faster. And they also draw comparisons to the Batmobile!”

 

FormulaE_Gen2

The new Formula E Gen2 car. Its longer range battery will allow racers to drive only one car per race (Photo credit: Formula E/LAT)

 

Also new to Formula E’s fifth season will be the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, which will be a kind of a sidebar series on Formula E tracks. In addition to the open wheel EV races, each Formula E weekend will now feature a race with production car EVs that anyone can drive on the open road. Think adding a stock car race to an IndyCar race on the same weekend and you’ve got the gist. “We’re confident fans will like the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series,” shared Pallé. “The racers will be driving EVs that the fans can imagine driving themselves.”

 

Jaguar iPace

Jaguar iPACE cars will compete for Formula E’s eTROPHY (Photo credit: Top Car Rating)

 

Fomula E’s fifth season begins in the unlikely locale Ad Diriyah, near the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Going to Saudi Arabia holds both opportunities and risks for Formula E.

 

OPPORTUNITIES: ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Pallé sees the planting of the Formula E flag in Ad Diriyah as an important step towards building an EV infrastructure in an area that is looking to diversify and modernize its economy: “Formula E wants to help open and build the EV market in the Middle East and Africa. The effects of climate change are already being felt at disastrous levels in those regions and so accelerating the transition to EVs is crucial. That’s one big reason we’re opening the season in Riyadh and it’s also why we will be racing in Marrakech, Morocco for the third year in a row this season.”

On another front — gender equality — many elements of Saudi society have been closed off to women. Things that women in most of the rest of the world take for granted — like driving, for example — have been off limits until only recently.

The Saudi government, now under the rule of the young and controversial Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), showed recently that it wants to move from the 19th to the 20th century by extending the right to drive to women. Formula E is looking to accelerate and normalize this new way of living on the Arabian Peninsula. “Many of our teams will have a female driver on our last day of driving in Ad Diriyah,” Pallé shared. “We have a ten-year contract with Riyadh and expect the role of women to increase in our races there going forward.”

 

FormulaE Ad Diriyah

Formula E comes to Saudi Arabia in advance of its races in Ad Diriyah this weekend. From left, Alejandro Agag – Founder & CEO of Formula E, Susie Wolff – Team Principal of VENTURI Formula E Team, Felipe Massa – VENTURI Formula E Team driver, His Excellency Eng. Saleh bin Naser Al-Jasser, Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines and Andre Lotterer – DS TECHEETAH driver (Photo credit: Formula E/LAT)

 

RISKS: KHASHOGGI AND YEMEN

Despite women being allowed behind the wheel and other advances, doing business with and in Saudi Arabia in 2018-19 is a challenge for any brand, Formula E included.

The brutal murder of Washington Post columnist, U.S. resident and MBS critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey in early October certainly has made things more difficult.

And that is on top of the Saudi regime’s three-plus year bombing campaign — supported by the USA, France, Great Britain and eight other Sunni muslim states — in support of the government of neighboring Yemen in its civil war against Houthi rebels, backed at least in part by Iran. Yemen is now the world’s most calamitous humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, from March 2015 to December 2017, over 13,000 people have been killed with estimates of an additional 50,000 dead as a result of civil war-related famine.

On the one hand, Formula E, by its presence in Saudi Arabia, can be accused of supporting the Kingdom’s actions. On the other, if they decided not to go to Ad Diriyah, that could slow down the gender equality reform portion of the complex Saudi story. Formula E, at least for now, believes that engaging with the Saudi government and, even more so, the Saudi people, is the way to go.

“We are focused on what we can influence — the opening up of Saudi Arabia from sustainability, EV, and mass participation points of view,” responded Pallé.

 

Woman driver Saudi

A Saudi woman is all smiles after a driving lesson in Jeddah in March (Photo credit: Amer Hilabi / AFP)

 

The plan is for Formula E to race in Ad Diriyah for at least ten years. They will work with race organizers on the ground to help the event earn ISO certification, the standard for sustainable events.

After leaving Saudi Arabia, Formula E’s season will feature 11 more race weekends, concluding in Brooklyn, New York on July 13-14.

 

GSB’s Take: Kudos to Formula E for an innovative off-season. Starting the new campaign with drivers only needing to use one vehicle per race due to increased battery efficiency is a big deal. So is the launch of Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series, featuring EV sedans that fans could imagine driving themselves.

Launching its fifth season in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia holds reputational risks for Formula E, given the violence being fomented by the Saudi government and Crown Prince MBS on both micro and macro levels. If I had a vote, I would let the powers that be in Saudi Arabia know that Formula E will not be back in 2020 if the bombing in Yemen continues.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Seattle Seahawks and Sounders Sell Potatoes Grown from Their Own Compost; EV Charging at Chicago’s United Center; Golf Course Bogeys Chance to Score on Climate Change

GreenSportsBlog’s News & Notes is back with Three for Thursday: CenturyLink Field, home of Seattle’s Seahawks and Sounders, built on its already strong green-sports record by sourcing potatoes grown from its own compost. Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks, is bringing free electric vehicle (EV) charging to its parking lots. And a golf course near Portland, OR swings and misses on a chance to make a statement on climate change. 

 

 

POTATOES GROWN FROM COMPOST SOLD AT SEATTLE’S CENTURYLINK FIELD

CenturyLink Field’s reputation as one of the greenest sports venues in the U.S. is well-deserved. From on-site solar to diverting over 97 percent of its waste from landfill this season to its stellar public transit offerings that bring 35 percent of all attendees to and from Seahawks and Sounders games, CenturyLink gets it done. And, this September, the venue  went straw-free by taking part in “Strawless in Seattle,” an initiative of the Lonely Whale Foundation.

How could CenturyLink Field top all that?

By changing the way they source potatoes, that’s how!

You see, all of the french fries served at the Seahawks thrilling 41-38 victory over the Houston Texans on October 29 and the Sounders 2-0 thrashing of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS playoff game on November 2 came from Sound Sustainable Farms, which used compost from the stadium’s food waste to grow its produce.

The Seahawks and Sounders are partnering with Cedar Grove Composting, which owns Sound Sustainable Farms, to offer locally sourced, organic and eco-friendly foods.

Cedar Grove collects about 16 tons of compost after every Seahawks game, according to a team statement. That compost served as the growing environment which yielded approximately 6,000 pounds of cut potatoes for the Seahawks-Texans game.

Cedar Grove says it brought its compost to a dormant farm in Redmond, WA earlier this year where the soil was restored for farming. And, voilà, Sound Sustainable Farms was born and CenturyLink Field had french fries made from their own compost.

 

CenturyLink Potatoes

Potatoes, growing in soil from compost collected at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, will ultimately become french fries at…CenturyLink Field (Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks)

 

“This fully integrated, closed-loop cycle takes composting to its highest and best use by returning the finished compost to growing food for local consumption,” said J. Stephan Banchero, III, vice president of Cedar Grove.

 

UNITED CENTER GETS NEW JUICE FROM VOLTA EV CHARGING

So far this season, both tenants of Chicago’s United Center — the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks — can use jolts of energy. The once-legendary Bulls now reside near the Eastern Conference bottom with a 2-9 record. The Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups this decade, are in better shape than their hoops co-tenants but are lumbering along at a “meh” 8-8-2 mark.

But, there is hope.

Volta Charging, the leader in free electric vehicle (EV) charging, recently began deploying EV charging stations near the South and East entrances of the United Center in Chicago, as part of a 10-year agreement with the venue.

Through Volta’s nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations, the largest indoor arena in the U.S., will offer visitors free charging facilities, supporting the United Center’s mission to reduce its environmental impact.

 

Volta Charging Greentech Media

A Volta charging station. The company recently signed a 10-year deal to deploy similar stations at Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks (Photo credit: GreenTech Media)

 

Four open-access universal charging stations will be installed, operated and maintained at no cost to the United Center or its customers through Volta’s ad-supported network model. The stations will be equipped with digital-hybrid advertising display units that will be placed in prime locations near venue entrances. This will ensure sponsor/advertiser messages reach fans entering and exiting the arena, while facilitating easy access for drivers.

Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed an executive order committing  the city to work towards the scientific guidelines put forth in the Paris climate agreement, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. As city departments work to find ways to reduce emissions, United Center is raising awareness about its own commitment to sustainability through its partnership with Volta.

“With over 2.5 million visitors annually, we are excited to be partnering with Volta to bring its [charging] stations to our arena and provide visitors with a convenient and easy way to charge their vehicles,” said Joe Myra, VP of Business Affairs at the United Center. “Volta’s model aligns perfectly with our plan to work towards sustainability and enables our patrons to take a personal stake in a viable future.”

Since its founding 2010, Volta reports it has delivered over 15 million electric miles, saving 136,000 gallons of gas and offsetting 6.6 million pounds of CO₂ in the process.

 

WASHINGTON STATE’S BEACON ROCK GOLF COURSE DOESN’T QUITE GET GREEN-SPORTS

Have you seen this photo? It received quite a bit of media attention back in early September.

 

Golf Fire

Photo credit: Beacon Rock Golf Course

 

It was taken on September 7 at Beacon Rock Golf Course on the Washington side of the border with Oregon.

In the background, you see the Eagle Creek fire, a 31,000-acre blaze burning all the way to the Portland area, about 45 miles away. Even though it was encroaching on the golf course, play went on.

Of course, it must be noted that the Columbia River forms the border between the two states at that point so there was little chance of the fire moving on to the first tee. And, it’s worth mentioning that many golfers have the “play through” ethos, meaning that the elements will not stop them.

I get it.

But what I don’t get are the reactions of the folks who run Beacon Rock Golf Course.

They posted the photo above to Facebook with the caption “Our golfers are committed to finishing the round!” That’s simply callous and tone deaf.

But later on, they posted this more menacing photo with a sober, much more appropriate caption:

 

Golf Fire 2

 

Yet, to me, this was an opportunity lost.

If I was asked to write this caption, it would have read something like this:

“View from the Clubhouse. A fire of this magnitude makes us 1) thankful no lives have been lost so far, 2) think of the many people who will be affected for many months, and 3) urge business as well as government leaders in Washington, Oregon and at the federal level to take serious, immediate action on climate change.” 

OK, maybe it could be a tad tighter, but you get my drift.

 


 

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