How motorsport is racing to save the planet

Ahead of the latest Extreme E race in Scotland, Michael Green, a Director in EY’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) practice, examines how it is shifting perceptions about motorsport.

How motorsport is racing to save the planet

Catie Munnings (GBR) / Timmy Hansen (SWE), Genesys Andretti United Extreme E, leads Laia Sanz (ESP) / Carlos Sainz (ESP), Acciona | Sainz XE Team

The very last thing that most people associate with motorsport is combatting climate change, but that view may well be changing thanks to an extraordinary motor series called Extreme E.

Its founder and CEO, Alejandro Agag, is on a mission to use this unorthodox championship to raise awareness of three big themes:

Climate change — by staging events in global locations that highlight sustainability issues and solutions.

E-mobility — by racing electric sport utility vehicles (eSUVs).

Diversity — by being the first racing championship to have teams with equal numbers of male and female drivers.

This pioneering approach has attracted the backing of some of the biggest names in motorsport, including FI champions Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button. So far, Extreme E races have been held in locations including Greenland, the Atacama Desert in South America, Saudi Arabia and Senegal – all designed to raise awareness of climate change while minimising environmental impact.

Speeding sustainably in Scotland

Extreme E now moves onto Scotland, with racing taking place over the weekend of 13-14 May in Dumfries and Galloway. Fittingly, parts of the gruelling offroad action will take place in the former Glenmuckloch opencast coal mine, which is soon to be converted into a pumped storage hydropower plant and wind farm. Once built, the plant will deliver 210 MW per hour of electricity, store power during periods of excess energy supply and release it at times of peak demand. The wind farm being built alongside the former mine will feature eight 4.2 MW turbines which will power the plant’s pump.

So, not only will the old mine act as a perfect natural amphitheatre for the event, but it will also showcase the transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.

Jenson Button, former F1 champion and now an Extreme E team owner, said: “It is brilliant that we will be returning to the UK for Extreme E Season 3 and we are really looking forward to the next round of the championship in Scotland. There is such a passion for motorsport in the UK and it is great that the series is returning to its roots once again.”

How green is your gear stick?

Yet, despite a vast array of innovative ideas – from limiting crew numbers, not having spectators and using a ship to transport the cars – some readers may wonder how truly green such an event can be. This is where my colleagues come in because EY teams have been working alongside Extreme E right from the start, from helping them to set out their initial strategy to providing ongoing advice and support as the series travels the world.

But, as any reader knows, metrics are at the heart of sustainability – and motorsport is no exception. So, EY have developed a bespoke social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) framework by tailoring the World Bank’s framework to suit Extreme E’s relatively small, transient events. This has not only helped to mitigate and manage the impact of races before they happen but has also fed into further innovations. So, Scotland’s race event in 2023 may be the greenest yet.

Extreme E and the drive to net zero

The UK has committed to reaching net zero by 2050, which will have particularly significant implications for the transport industry. This sector currently accounts for 34% of the UK’s CO2 emissions, with road transport representing a significant proportion. To combat this, the UK is investigating heavily in electrification, with EV sales increasing year on year, supported by a rapidly growing charging network.

Initiatives such as Extreme E are helping to further publicise and drive forward this transition, but clearly much more still needs to be done. So, as well as supporting Extreme E, our CCaSS practice is working across both the private and public sector to support the transition to net zero. This includes helping clients to design and implement their decarbonisation and transition plans in line with new requirements such as Science Based Targets (SBTi) and the Transition Planning Taskforce (TPT), together with evolving their approaches to measuring, monitoring and forecasting their own emissions, particularly Scope 3.

Check out the full Extreme E case study. To experience all the sustainable thrills of Extreme E racing, watch the action on ITVX.

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