Formula E, back to the future

Formula E, back to the future

The ABB FIA Formula E championship came to Rome for the first time. The grand prix, which took place in the city’s EUR district, was decidedly different from any other. This was thanks to Enel, which will be the competition’s Official Power Partner for the next five years

When Rome’s EUR district was designed in the mid-1930s, the idea was that it would become the prototype for the city of the future. Its rationalist architecture, which was supposed to provide the setting for the 1942 World’s Fair (EUR stands for “Esposizione Universale Roma,” “Universal Expo Rome”), would have shown the world the new face of Rome. But this was not to be: the Second World War broke out and construction work at EUR didn’t resume until the 1950s. By then Italy was in the midst of an economic boom and the city was preparing to host the 1960 Olympics. The country was reborn.

In actual fact the future didn’t really come to EUR until 14 April this year. On that day its somewhat metaphysical streets were transformed into the circuit for the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. It was the seventh race of the season and the first ever in Italy. For the record, it was won by the British driver Sam Bird from the DS Virgin Racing team.

The future in question was that of electric mobility, which came to life in the curved lines of the racing cars, which were more like those of an aeroplane than an automobile. Their whistling sound was similar to that of a jet engine while the power that their electric motors unleashed meant that their red-hot tyres grazed the asphalt. And yet in a certain sense this is the future for all of us. It is a high-tension and convincing preview (“beyond the show” is the message of Formula E) of the way that we will all be getting about before long: it will be fast, silent and clean. And this is particularly appropriate for a city like Rome which the Italian actor Alberto Sordi once called “A drawing room that you have to walk across on tiptoe.”

And it’s a future that is already the present in a number of countries and which is spreading in many others with the speed of all technology revolutions: in Japan, for example, the number of charging columns for electric cars (more than 40,000) overtook that of petrol filling stations (35,000).


Enel renews its partnership with Formula E

But what the more than 30,000 spectators in Rome saw, and what swept through the streets of EUR like an energetic gust of wind, was also the future of the city. And, thanks to digital innovation, the smart grid, smart meters and new forms of mobility and energy management, this future will increasingly be on a human scale and will respect the environment. This is the vision of our Group, which has been the Official Power Partner of Formula E for the last two years and will also be the Official Smart Charging Partner for the next five. In other words, it will provide the clean energy enabling the championship to reach its target of zero global impact (the energy that powered the race in Rome came entirely from certified renewable resources). Thanks to both ultra-rapid superchargers and second-generation batteries, the single-seater cars will be able to complete the race without having to recharge. When compared with the situation today, this represents a doubling of the performance for the same weight and volume.


From the supercharger to V2G

Indeed the futuristic charging structures that our Group has developed were on display at our stand at the Rome E-prix, in the e-village area. Here you could see the supercharger designed for the test bench of Formula E, as well as the charging structures for daily private and public use. These include the Fast-Charge, which can completely recharge a vehicle in just 20 minutes, and the new Pole-station and Wall-box which, with their innovative and harmonious design, will soon be available on streets and in houses, thereby helping to make the dream of the smart city come true. Visitors were able to experience our Vehicle-to-Grid, the technology that converts the electric car into a battery for the grid, thereby making for a better use of renewable energy. Visitors could also get a sneak preview of the brand new rapid portable battery recharger that will be used, as of next year, for recharging the electric motors in the first edition of the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup, of which we are the title sponsor. These are all tangible examples of efficient technology that is ready for wide scale distribution.

As Francesco Venturini, the CEO of Enel X, the division of our Group that is responsible for innovative products and digital solutions, said, “It’s incredible what’s happening: when we started nine months ago, electric mobility seemed like a concept of the future. But today we can already say that it’s the present. Formula E offers yet more proof of the fact that progress is being made in this sector at an incredible speed. And here at Enel we have the right people and the right technology. We are key players in this evolution.”


A special day

Furthermore, Rome offered an extraordinary showcase for the promotion of electric mobility. In order to make full use of this, Enel – which was born in this city almost 60 years ago – organised a series of sidebar events before the grand prix. They were both recreational and educational, and included a tour of the circuit that helped reveal some of the secrets of Formula E. This was for the students who were winners in the European edition of the Play Energy competition. Rome also hosted the eighth edition of the itinerant series of talks #EnelFocusOn: for the occasion we invited Brian Solis, digital analyst and anthropologist, and 42 influencers from around the world who shared their thoughts on the subject of e-mobility.

And for those who’d like to experience the thrill of driving round the circuit, even after it’s over, the game The Circuit is available online.

Indeed the thrill of the Formula E Championship was special. It was more intense and had a little extra something with respect to the races in other cities. This excitement proved contagious for both the spectators and the drivers (who all agreed that this was the best race that they had ever taken part in). As Alejandro Agag, the CEO of Formula E, announced as he stood alongside the city’s mayor on the podium: “It was such a wonderful experience that we’ve decided to come back and race here in Rome for the next five years.”

On Saturday evening, after the race was over, staff began dismantling at the circuit, as is the custom. However, something will remain. The four Fast-Charge columns we installed will be kept on, in line with the Italian national plan for electric mobility infrastructure. The charging columns will enable local residents to recharge their cars in record time and to use the free, ultra-quick Wi-Fi connection. And EUR will start to be – and not just seem – the place that architects imagined when they drew their first sketches more than 80 years ago: the city of the future. Actually, it’s better than the future. In the words of Stephen Hawking, the great astrophysicist who recently left this world, “We are all time travellers, journeying together into the future. But let us work together to make that future a place we want to visit.”