Cars powered by solar energy will feature in the UK’s first ever 100% electric motor car race this weekend.
Organisers predict that 60,000 people will watch the tenth and final race in the first Formula E championship in London’s Battersea Park.
Alejandro Agag, FIA Formula E’s chief executive, believes the race will be the first in the world to use solar charged cars.
The safety and medical cars will be powered by batteries in the pit lane, which will be linked to a “mini solar farm” consisting of 26 solar panels, which will also be used to power the race’s TV screens, ticket scanners and mobile phone recharging stations.
But Agag said there would need to be further developments in energy storage before all the cars could be powered in this way. The 10 two-car teams currently change vehicles rather than batteries, in a single pit stop.
Agag said: “The problem with solar is the rhythm at which the energy is generated or the amount of panels you need at any given moment. To charge all the racing cars, we would have to cover the whole park with solar panels.
“But this weekend we want to showcase that it is possible. Now what you need is to be able to store the energy because if you can store the energy for a day you have enough energy to charge the cars.”
Agag was speaking at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s annual conference in London on Wednesday, where the UK’s transport minister announced that the government plans to have “every car on the road ultra low emission” by 2050, as part of a push to tackle the thousands of deaths caused by air pollution every year.
“One day electric vehicles will be the clear choice for the majority of drivers. This is a huge opportunity to make the UK one of the world’s leading markets and producers of electric cars,” said Andrew Jones MP who drove his first electric car last week.
“Ultra low emission vehicles don’t just help us tackle carbon emissions and climate change, they make our air cleaner too. Cutting levels of particulates and other pollutants could help prevent up to 29,000 deaths annually. That is a huge number. We must take action to help secure the health of our countrymen and women.”
A Cambridge Econometrics study published in March predicts that if enough drivers made the transition to electric cars, the UK could cut its oil imports by 40% and benefit from up to 19,000 jobs.
The result of a 6m vehicle deployment would be a 47% drop in carbon emissions by 2030 and an £1,000 annual save on fuel bills for the average driver, the report claimed. It also said it could herald the end of air pollutants – including nitrogen oxide and particulates – within 35 years and that the resulting reduction in respiratory diseases could bring with it a saving of over £1bn.
A new survey of 303 expert members of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership found that nearly half expect that their next car will be a fully electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, with 14% already owning one.
Proponents of electric cars hope that Formula E could help bring them into the mainstream both through technological innovation and, crucially, by tackling what AA president Edmund King calls their “milkfloat” image problem.
King argues that running the races in cities could provide the “catalyst for change” needed to make electric vehicles “less anorakish.” The championship has also included races in Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires and Los Angeles.
Agag said it could help “make motor sport relevant again” and they would only expect about 5,000 people to attend if the race had been held in a more traditional venue such as Donnington Park .
Agag also said that attracting young people to the sport is key to making electric cars “fun and sexy” and that Formula E is popular with children because of the reduced noise levels, which reach 80 decibels (dB) in comparison to the 130dB produced by Formula 1 cars. The relative peace and quiet also leaves the event able to use music, with signature tunes for the start and finish.
“The world is moving in our direction. It is not so easy to change the minds of 50 and 60 year olds, but the important ones are the kids because when they become 18 they will want to buy a car. We can have an effect on new generations,” said Agag.
Simon Booth, Managing Director, REI says” Formula E has a certain ring to it. If a glamorous sport like car racing can lend itself to low emission cars, then the future for household cars could be limitless, with huge fuel savings, a reduction in respiratory diseases, cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions”.