Considering Virgin Group founder Richard Branson recently got an upclose look at the destructive impact of climate change, having rode out Hurricane Irma on his private island in the Caribbean, it’s no surprise his race team is launching a campaign to promote the transition to renewable energy.
DS Virgin Racing launched its “Race Against Climate Change” initiative Friday from Hong Kong ahead of this weekend’s Formula E season-opener. The season-long campaign, for which DS Virgin has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Institute, is aimed at helping the world meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.
RMI is connected to the Virgin Group in that Branson is one of the organizations largest funders. That link, however, is far from the only reason it’s collaborating with the FE team, as RMI’s managing director Mark Grundy told NESN Fuel.
“Our main role is to help the world, and help businesses and industries, accelerate toward an energy transition, which brings in more batteries, more renewable energy, greater energy efficiency, etc.,” Grundy said. “So for us, Virgin Racing is the sort of sexy tip of the spear because Formula E is riding around with first-generation batteries inside the cars.”
The partnership similarly is a perfect fit for the DS Virgin, which sees its involvement in FE as a platform it can use to help the global community.
“As well as being one of the founding and most successful teams in Formula E, we also see ourselves as much more than a race team,” team principal Alex Tai said in a statement. “We care passionately about our planet which is why we’ve instigated this innovative new program.”
As part of the project, RMI will work with Virgin to host two “Energy Innovation Summits” throughout the 2017-18 season that will focus on showcasing how transitioning away from fossil fuels will impact different industries over the next 10 to 15 years.
One of these conferences will be held at a yet-to-be-decided European round of the championship. The second will take place in the United States during the New York City ePrix, and Grundy suggests it will be a “more robust, all-day event.”
“And potentially in the New York event we’ll actually have technology providers and investors — almost like a ‘Shark Tank’ or ‘Dragons’ Den’-style — where you could potentially see a second-generation battery entrepreneur showing his work and getting feedback from investors.”
FE, in its short three-year existence, has proven just how quick the rate of development is with electric powertrains. And although batteries still take a fair amount of time to charge — with RMI CEO Jules Kortenhorst estimating next-generation EVs will take roughly 15 minutes to top off — the series is doing its part to improve their range.
The single-seater championship has utilized first-generation batteries since its inaugural season. For 2018-19, though, McLaren will supply new 54 kilowatt-hour batteries that will provide enough range for drivers to complete races without having to swap cars during pit stops.
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