For a brief few hours on 26 January, 102 city buses and 22 blistering racing cars had a lot in common in Santiago, Chile. Both types of vehicle were powered by electric motors. Both were silent yet unleashed unexpectedly powerful acceleration, with no environmental impact. Most importantly of all, however, they symbolised a future that, with each passing day, is turning into the present. Last but not least, both were the result of our Group’s work and vision.
Formula E, an innovation laboratory
The single-seaters arrived in the Chilean capital to compete in the third round of the exhilarating fifth season of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Their battleground was a temporary city circuit that hugged the edges of the vast green expanse of Parque O’Higgins: 22 lightning-fast cars, tackling the straights and chicanes of the track at blistering speeds of up to 230 kph on a sunny, summery Saturday. Pure, virtually silent speed, pure, emissions-free kinetic energy that delivered an exhilarating, adrenaline-fuelled 45 minutes culminating in victory for Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird.
A captivatingly spectacular demonstration that power does not have to pollute, that electric mobility is far more real and technologically advanced than most of us imagine. The ultimate goal, the very reason Formula E was launched, in fact, mirroring that of our Group which is Official Power Partner to the series and, through Enel X, its Official Smart Charging Partner too.
“We partnered with FE,” declared Enel X CEO Francesco Venturini, “because we shared an absolutely common vision: the need to act fast to preserve the future, to make the planet a better place, by offering products and services that help create more sustainable lifestyles. Like Formula E, we have always believed that electric mobility was one of the best ways of leveraging change to achieve those goals. And Formula E is the best experimental laboratory in the entire e-mobility area.”
Just take the batteries, for instance. Until a very short time ago, they could only guarantee the electric single-seaters a range of half a race but today, even though they are still the same weight, they have enough power to finish the whole grand prix in the new format that delivers 45 minutes of non-stop racing, plus a lap of the circuit.”
Another product of this technological experimentation on this very tough, extreme test bench are the superfast charging stations developed by our Group. Indeed the special JuicePump Formula E edition of the latter has been adopted by the Championship. Not forgetting the ingenious JuiceLamp, which was presented at the Enel X stand during the Santiago event. This is a smart street light that not only adjusts lighting to suit ambient conditions in real time but also incorporates two 22 kW JuiceBox e-car charging sockets. On top of all that, the street light is set up to deliver traffic monitoring, smart parking, air quality analysis and Wi-Fi functions.
Lastly, 102 futuristic electric city buses were delivered by Enel X to the municipality of Santiago, making Chile only the second country in the world after China to have them. Since December 2018, these buses have been covering an average of 238 kilometres per day on three lines, carrying around 1.2 million passengers per month. The result is that Santiago bus users not only enjoy a better public transport service (the e-buses are exceptionally comfortable, air-conditioned and provide free Wi-Fi and USB cell phone charging sockets) but they also get to personally experience the progress and benefits of electric mobility each and every day.
E-Mobility, Chile at the forefront
“These buses are a revolution,” said former Formula 1 driver Eliseo Salazar Valenzuela. “As a Chilean, I’m proud that my country is the first in Latin America to adopt them. Chile has always been a spectator in the major revolutions in history, be they industrial or technological. But we are major players in this latest one, the electric mobility revolution. That is another reason why I’m happy to see Formula E return to Santiago for a second time.”
The Formula E message is “Wake up! e-mobility is not future fantasy. It’s here right now in the form of a very fast, very tangible present.” Every single aspect of it is revolutionary: it is the equivalent of the steam engine in the late 1700s, or the personal computer at the end of the 1970s. Maybe that is why no other championship in the history of motorsport has attracted such large numbers of spectators, sponsors and constructors or as many cities competing for the chance to host a grand prix in such a short time. As FE director of operations Manuel Ortiz points out: “We have the most prestigious car manufacturers competing because there is no doubt that the car’s future is electric. For those present in FE, it is not so much about winning per se as being able to develop new technologies that can then be applied to commercial products.”
Once on the road, these products astonish even the most demanding and traditionalist drivers. “I still really love speed,” said 64-year-old Salazar. “Over the course of my career, I’ve driven all kinds of cars and competed in every category from rallying to Indianapolis and F1. I thought I had seen it all, but when I tried an electric car for the first time, I was completely blown away. Nothing I had driven before gave me the same satisfaction and since then I’ve never looked back.”
That’s exactly what the passengers on Santiago’s new e-buses say too!