Motor sport and environmentalism do not normally go hand-in-hand, at least in the public mind, but a new electric motor rally series is hoping to change that perception for good.
The annual Dakar rally is arguable the biggest and most famous bastion of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle, yet the first all-electric car competed in 2015, and in 2017 an all electric car actually finished the event. (Yes, it was in last place – but just finishing the event is a major milestone in an event where up to one third of entries fail to finish).
A follow-on from this success was the demonstration at the start of the 2020 Dakar rally of a new all-electric rally SUV. Called the Extreme-E Odyssey 21, this vehicle is now to become the basis of the new Extreme-E all-electric rally event series.
Interestingly, the originators of the Extreme-E series see it as not only a way to showcase and develop electric rally cars to the point of taking on the Dakar challenge – they also want to modernise the perception of motor sport. To do so, they have developed the series with the following three aims in mind:
- showcase world-class, sustainable motorsport;
- highlight the impacts of human-induced climate change and
- demonstrate equality through a format that allows men and women to compete on an equal basis in the same event.
The vehicles themselves are a battery-electric, 400kw (550hp), 1650-kilogram, 2.3-metre wide E-SUV. Built on custom-made alloy space frame, they can do 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and climb gradients of up to 130 percent.
The event sites have been deliberately chosen to highlight regions negatively impacted by human induced climate change.
By doing so, they want to inspire viewers to consider their own environmental impact through showcasing their own efforts to minimise the event footprint wherever possible, and where this is not possible, to offset any unavoidable impacts via local legacy environmental projects.
The format rules are designed to showcase gender equality by design through specifying that teams must comprise one male and one female driver, with each spending an equal time on the track competing against both male and female drivers. The event website describes the gender equity rules as:
“Teams will field one male and one female driver, promoting gender equality and a level playing field amongst competitors. Each driver will complete one lap behind the wheel, with a changeover incorporated into the race format.
The teams will determine which driver goes first to best suit their strategy and driver order selections are made confidentially, with competitors kept in the dark as to other teams’ choices until the cars reach the start-line. Contests between males and females will therefore be ensured.”
It will be interesting to see how successful the series is at meeting its aims, as well as how long it takes for vehicles field tested and developed through these events to start reaching podium positions in the Dakar rally itself…
2021 Extreme-E events calendar and locations:
Coast: 23-24 January. Lac Rose, Senegal (approximately 30km from Dakar)
Legacy project: support 60 hectares of mangrove reforestation.
Desert: 6-7 March. Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia
Legacy project: work with local and international experts in the field on projects serving to preserve and restore ecosystems affected by the impact of desertification and climate change.
Mountain: 14-15 March. Kali Gandaki Valley, Nepal
Legacy project: in development
Glacier: 28-29 August. Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Legacy project: support research into protecting Arctic ice.
Rainforest: 30-31 October. Para, Brazil
Legacy project: support research by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) who have more than 24 years of conservation experience across the Amazon.
For more information, see: https://www.extreme-e.com/