Even in the hyper-paced business world of today, there are very few brands that go from concept to global in less than two years. Tesla was founded in 2003, Uber in 2009, Snapchat in 2011. Formula E was nothing but an idea as recently as 2012.
However, over the last year, we were already able to establish ourselves as a global motor racing championship. In a market which many might describe as saturated, not least because it already boasts a very dedicated, loyal fan base. We were able to establish a firm foothold despite numerous parties who voiced their doubts. And despite the fact that our championship is itself promoting a motoring concept – electric vehicles – that has its fair share of naysayers.
Our vision: a sustainable future with electric cars
How did we do it? With Formula E, we have taken an old, established concept – motor racing – and have added a fresh new twist. We’ve done that by tapping into new trends that are already shaping the world today – in particular, sustainability and the power of digital technology – in order to promote another, e-mobility, which is just beginning to challenge the status quo. Our whole business model is based on a simple vision: of a sustainable future with electric cars on the streets of the world’s major cities.
Formula E is aimed at breaking down two barriers in electric vehicles: technical and social. On the technical side, we wanted to encourage the development of new technologies and, hopefully, to inspire breakthroughs that take electric vehicle performance to a new level. On the social side, we wanted to challenge people’s mindsets and to demonstrate that electric cars are sexy. With world-class automotive and technology companies such as Williams, Renault, Michelin and Qualcomm involved, we have managed to engage the right people on the technical side. And on the social side, the teams and drivers have embraced our culture of fun and accessibility and our use of new digital platforms to build a closer relationship with fans, in particular with the younger generation, the motoring enthusiasts of the future. It already seems to be working. 99% of spectators interviewed after our Miami ePrix said that they would consider buying an electric car.
Moving a major event around the world and growing it rapidly as it gathers momentum requires the flexibility to react to constant changes, while there is absolutely no margin for error. This means having a team and suppliers with the right skills and an entrepreneurial, ‘can do’ culture. At the same time, in making Formula E’s vision a reality within just two years, the guiding theme was that we remained true to our founding principles. Everything we’ve done has been with an eye to sustainability. We have strived to make our own supply chain as clean as possible – with our logistics partner, DHL, we have designed a race calendar that incorporates the shortest travel times around the world and used the most efficient modes of transport feasible. Our cars are powered by Aquafuel, a clean, efficient energy source produced from sea algae. Even the merchandise in our VIP hospitality is produced from recycled materials only.
eMobility is here to stay
So what does our experience over the last two years tell us about how the future will play out? Well, for me, as one of the “founding fathers” who has been involved in Formula E from the outset, one of the main learnings is that the status quo is always there to be challenged. And that the disruptive challenger in the automotive industry – electric vehicles – is definitely here to stay. We see how electric cars have already captured the public’s imagination. And mindsets are beginning to change. With battery life, range and charging infrastructure developing – not least thanks to the efforts of the Formula E teams and manufacturers to improve performance and secure their place on the winners’ podium – this momentum will only accelerate.
For the next season, which begins next week, we have slightly relaxed the technical requirements for the teams, which will encourage further enhancements in the cars’ technologies while ensuring that the racing action continues to excite. We will also, with our partners, continue to build on our sustainable agenda – we aspire to have a completely carbon-neutral championship by season five.
Formula E has not only shown that it is possible to build a global brand in an incredibly short time with the right, consistent vision and by tapping into the trends that are shaping our world. Perhaps more importantly, it has also shown that business models that create value for society can enjoy critical and commercial success. Given how far we’ve come in just two years, I can’t predict with real certainty what exciting developments await us in the future, but I can promise one thing: sparks are going to fly.