McLaren, Claire Williams and broken speed records among the highlights at Change. Accelerated. Live.

Before Jake Dennis became the first British driver to win the Formula E world championship, the all-electric series held its annual sustainable innovation summit at ExCeL London. BlackBook Motorsport picks out some of the key takeaways from the event.

“A platform to educate around sustainability with motor racing at its core.”

Those were the words of Formula E’s new chief executive Jeff Dodds as he described the purpose of this year’s Change. Accelerated. Live. event.

The series was founded with sustainability in mind and its annual sustainable innovation summit provides an opportunity to highlight the real-world benefits of using electric vehicles. Now in its second year, the event brings together experts across motorsport, sustainability, politics and education for an afternoon of panel discussions covering a range of issues.

This year’s packed agenda was headlined by speakers such as Formula E founder Alejandro Agag and former Williams F1 deputy team principal Claire Williams, who were on hand to discuss the strategies driving change in transport, business, and society.

BlackBook Motorsport attended the conference, which took place at London’s ExCeL on 28th July ahead of its own Summer Reception and the season-ending London ePrix, to hear what those on stage had to say about the future of electric mobility. Here are three key takeaways from the event.

This is a man’s world

The meaning of ‘sustainability’ has evolved in recent years to encompass economic and social issues, in addition to the environment.

The third panel session of the day, featuring Williams, Cara Herzog, the chief DEI officer of Southwire, and Julius Baer executive director Aneka Beneby, focused on the presence of women in the male-dominated motorsport industry.

As one of just two female team principals to have ever managed a Formula One team, Williams is uniquely placed to comment on the reality for women in motorsport. In fact, she said a lot of her time in the global motorsport series was spent “trying to break down barriers” for other women coming into Formula One.

A recurring theme throughout the discussion was the challenge of trying to overcome an ingrained culture that has been determined by decades of male influence. According to Herzog, this often leads to women trying to “play hard”, when really the focus should be on creating “a safe space” and “new cultures where it’s okay to ask for help and admit that it’s hard”.

Claire Williams (left), Aneka Beneby (centre) and Cara Herzog (right) spoke of their experiences working in male-dominated industries

She also shared a poignant memory of being told: “Don’t ever wear a dress and don’t wear bright colours, because you don’t want to remind men that you’re different.”

A lack of female representation is a prevalent issue in all industries, which was highlighted by Beneby, who pointed to a Deloitte study that found only ten per cent of chief executives in finance in the UK are women. In senior management, that number rises to 22 per cent.

Still, in motorsport specifically, Herzog used her closing remarks to highlight the importance of male allies in driving progress in the industry.

“Nothing will change if you don’t want it to,” she said. “You have to be allies. You have to be advocates. Women cannot fix pipelines of progression on their own, it is too heavy a burden to bear.

“We need male allyship, male partnership, and we need to create industries and workplaces that work for women so that they don’t have to figure out how to shimmy into a mould.”

Showcasing the next generation

Prior to the event, Formula E attempted to break the indoor speed record using a modified Gen3 car called the GenBeta. McLaren driver Jake Hughes and Mahindra’s Lucas di Grassi went head-to-head for the record, but it was the Briton who came out on top.

Aside from the playful rivalry, this was actually an impressive technological achievement for Formula E. Both drivers beat the previous record by more than 50km/h. Hughes’ official time was 218.71km/h.

It offered a glimpse into the future of Formula E, with the cars powered by an enhanced battery output of 400kW/h compared to current generation of vehicles, which are capped at 350kW/h. A bespoke tyre was also developed to handle the improved acceleration of the car.

When compared to the series’ nascent years of having to swap cars mid-race due to the technological limitations of the vehicles, it shows how far Formula E has come even before its tenth anniversary.

The concept is now proven. It’s not just an exciting technological development, but a message that can be delivered to the world.

Firstly, it’s a message of sustainability, with Formula E already making impressive strides in the area of regenerative braking to create more power for its racecars. But its also a message of performance, with claims being made that the Formula E car will be comparable to a Formula One car in the future.

Currently, Formula E cars do not employ downforce as they do not go quickly enough to warrant it. But the GenBeta project has offered hope that more performance can be extracted from the cars with further technological innovations. With greater speed will come a larger audience, which will mean more eyeballs for the message of sustainability at Formula E’s core.

Aligning with a sustainable message

With technological progress comes a greater focus on sustainability. Italian manufacturer Maserati, which started competing in Formula E this season, is aiming to have electric versions of all its vehicles by 2025. By 2030, the goal is for the range to be fully electric.

Indeed, the opportunity to align with sustainability while testing technology for the future is a clear incentive for manufacturers to get involved with Formula E. That was the point made by McLaren Formula E team principal Ian James, who said the organisation’s decision to add the electric series to its entries in Formula One and IndyCar was a signal of “the future direction of motorsport”.

Meanwhile, fellow team principal James Barclay, who runs the Jaguar outfit, described Formula E cars as “the most efficient” in the world.

“For a 40 to 45-minute race in Formula E, we use the equivalent of just under three litres of fuel if we were a combustion-engined car,” Barclay pointed out.

For James, McLaren’s involvement in the all-electric series is a path to achieving the company’s own sustainability goals. The GenBeta project highlighted that the next step is to make Formula E more attractive to viewers, something that will help its message reach a wider audience.

“Racing, if it’s done in the right way, can not only promote [Net Zero], but it can also demonstrate the shift we’re seeing at the moment in terms of electrification,” said James. “If you can get people passionate about that, fired up and excited, that makes sustainability sexy. That for me is a great opportunity.”

Change. Accelerated. Live. will return in 2024 following events in Monaco and London this year. Click here to stay up to date with all the latest news as it becomes available.


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