Yet another wall still stood in Berlin, waiting to be torn down, and last week a piece finally came down. It was an invisible wall, yet it stood tall and strong like the one that split the city in two until the winter of 1989. One that still stands not only in Berlin but in much of the world: that of widespread prejudice against electric vehicles.
The first blow to the wall was struck on German soil by the Formula E Grand Prix, which held rounds seven and eight of the season on June 10 and 11 in what was almost a metaphysical setting: at the Tempelhof Airport, on the temporary circuit built along the gigantic arc-shaped terminal in rationalist style.
The battery-powered single-seaters dueled along sweeping curves, cutting chicanes and speeding down the track at over two hundred kilometers an hour, their electric engines blaring past the crowds like a spaceship about to take off, lap after adrenaline-fueled lap, sending an important message to audiences: electric vehicles are very different from what you have always imagined.
Never have Marshall McLuhan's famous words rung so true: “the medium is the message” and the medium in question – one that is powerful, fast as lightning, with scorching acceleration, in other words, a four-wheeled rocket – with its futuristic design, embodies the exact opposite of the prejudice and preconceptions it is attempting to eradicate. That is, that of an unattractive electric vehicle, one that is slow, inefficient and, in general, not very “cool”.
That’s the true goal of Formula E, in addition to the pure excitement that never fails. As summarised by Federico Caleno, Director of New Technologies and Global Innovation at Enel, the championship’s main technological partner, “spreading electric mobility culture, especially among younger generations: like a child watching Formula One thirty years dreamed of driving a Ferrari one day, we hope that a child today, fascinated by Formula E, dreams of one day sitting behind the wheel of an e-car.”
An e-car that could be an Audi or a Jaguar (two manufacturers that today are present at Formula One with their vehicles), a BMW or a Mercedes (coming up next season), or perhaps a Ferrari, since the Maranello manufacturer recently expressed interest in a zero-impact version of the F1.
Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, highlighted the importance of the concept during the third Smart Cities Forum event, promoted by FIA and held at Tempelhof on the sidelines of the races: “Today, vehicle emissions are one of the major causes of global warming. So the urgent need to spread electric mobility has become a true battle on which our survival depends. We will forever lose this battle if we don’t face it with the right technology. The Formula E microcosm offers us a unique opportunity because it is based on a high concentration of technologies that together form a very powerful combination: high efficiency batteries, fast-charging stations, smart meters, smart grids, real-time energy management, state-of-the-art engines.”
“The speed at which these technologies are developing from race to race is impressive, significantly reducing the amount of time needed to apply them on a large scale”
Alejandro Agag, Formula E CEO
An example for everyone: the Formula E single-seater battery system that was developed over the last year, now allows a full recharge in just 45 minutes, against the 330 (average) minutes for the e-cars that are currently on the market. We are working with Formula E to make sure the energy increasingly comes from renewable sources, in order to turn the championship into a zero-emission event.
“Had we not accepted the challenge offered by Formula E, our e-mobility technologies would have required much more time to develop. Instead, today we can say that we are in Germany, one of the most important electric vehicle manufacturers, to demonstrate Enel's leadership in charging technologies”
Federico Caleno, Director of New Technologies and Global Innovation Enel
And that’s not all: in addition to the revolutionary V2G concept, which integrates electric vehicles and energy grids into a single high efficiency system throughout the territory, the Italian multinational power company also presented its new bifacial solar panels at its stand, a system that is capable of generating 25% more energy than traditional panels.
For the record the two Berlin grand prix rounds were dominated by Mahindra, the Indian vehicle driven by Swedish Felix Rosenqvist, who also set the fastest lap at an average of 120.2 km/h. But that’s just the medium and what colour the vehicle that cut the finish line before all the others was matters to a certain point: what is far more important is that the message won.