Making EVs Cool

Oct. 25, 2021
Formula E and Extreme E racing make EVs cool, which is very good for the planet.

What do you get when you mix renewable energy with energy storage and stir in some all-electric sport utility vehicles (SUVs)? Give up? It’s “Extreme E” racing, which is the latest in electric vehicle (EV) racing to make its debut. It joins Formula E racing, which has been popular for many years now. Formula E uses Grand Prix style racers that compete on city streets all over the world.

Extreme E, however, uses all-electric SUV racers on an off-road track in remote locations. Racing has long been the place for manufacturers to test innovative new materials and technologies before they find their way into consumer vehicles. Also, Formula E and Extreme E racing make EVs cool which is very good for the planet.

Extreme SUVs

Granted an all-electric semi-truck is impressive, but they don’t crank up the coolness factor the way EV racing machines do. The E-SUVs used in Extreme E racing have plenty of muscle with approximately 400 kilowatts (540 horsepower) of power at the driver’s disposal. They can go from 0 - 62 miles/hour (100 kilometers/hour) in 4.5 seconds.

To make things a little more challenging, the cars are powered by a hybrid-battery with about 54.0 kilowatt-hours of capacity. Adding to the pressure, each day the racing teams are limited to one full battery charge for that day’s multi-events. When you think about racing each day on one full battery charge, a day’s commuting and shopping aren’t much of a challenge for the average production e-SUV’s battery capacity.

By the way, that once-a-day battery charge comes from electricity generated by environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel cells. This is another cool factors of Extreme E off-roading. If that isn’t enough, Alejandro Agag, the founder of Extreme E, is using the sport to draw the public’s attention to the climate change challenges faced by unique ecosystems of the world.

Extreme E popped up on my radar when a TV sportscaster talked about the Artic X Prix, which showcased climate change in polar regions. The off-roading event was held at Russell Glacier near Kangarlussuaq in Greenland. The race wasn’t on the glacier, but on the land that has been recently exposed by accelerated glacier melt.

Agag’s idea is to emphasize how global climate change is impacting the polar icepack in general and the glaciers in Greenland specifically. The combination of the environment, renewables, energy storage, and EVs really intrigued me. When the show was over, I found coverage of the Artic X Prix on YouTube and it was fascinating.  

Is There Interest

After spending an afternoon watching all the X Prix videos available, I started thinking about all of the articles and surveys I had read lately. Most had been positive, but there were several that bothered me. They indicated that consumers were not interested in EVs. Could that be true?

So I did some digging. Recently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) on EVs published their “Global EV Outlook 2021.” IEA’s publication is an annual commentary on what is happening with EVs. One item caught my attention said, “The worldwide EV registrations increased by 41% in 2020 despite the pandemic related worldwide downturn in car sales.” IEA pointed out this happened while fossil-fuel cars sales dropped 16%.

IEA had another catchy fact - global consumer spending on EV purchases was roughly US$ 120 billion in 2020 – that sounds like interest to me. Another tidbit stated Europe moved into first place for new EV registrations, which bumped China into second place for the first time. They attribute this gain to strong government incentives.

What about utilities, are they interested? According to a recent Business Wire press release the Electric Highway Coalition was expanding to 14 members with AVANGRID joining the partnership. This coalition has more than doubled since its inception and now includes members in 29 states and the District of Columbia with a collective customer base of over 60 million. Each member utility is committed to providing customers with fast EV charging facilities within its service territory.

After the extreme weather events experienced in 2021, no one can claim climate change isn’t real. Reducing the carbon footprint of transportation with EVs is a huge step in that direction. Making EVs cool with something like Extreme E racing with its use of renewable generation and EVs is positive step for getting more of the car buying public to put more EVs on the road. Paraphrasing a popular saying – we better build because they are coming!

About the Author

Gene Wolf

Gene Wolf has been designing and building substations and other high technology facilities for over 32 years. He received his BSEE from Wichita State University. He received his MSEE from New Mexico State University. He is a registered professional engineer in the states of California and New Mexico. He started his career as a substation engineer for Kansas Gas and Electric, retired as the Principal Engineer of Stations for Public Service Company of New Mexico recently, and founded Lone Wolf Engineering, LLC an engineering consulting company.  

Gene is widely recognized as a technical leader in the electric power industry. Gene is a fellow of the IEEE. He is the former Chairman of the IEEE PES T&D Committee. He has held the position of the Chairman of the HVDC & FACTS Subcommittee and membership in many T&D working groups. Gene is also active in renewable energy. He sponsored the formation of the “Integration of Renewable Energy into the Transmission & Distribution Grids” subcommittee and the “Intelligent Grid Transmission and Distribution” subcommittee within the Transmission and Distribution committee.