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How Formula E world champions Envision Racing are fighting climate change

August 04 2023

First-time world champions Envision Racing claimed the Formula E title last weekend at the London ePrix after nine seasons of competition. But how is ‘the greenest team on the greenest grid’ driving sustainability off the track?

Through their environmental programme, the Race Against Climate Change, Envision Racing are on a mission to engage fans, raise awareness of climate change, and accelerate society’s transition to clean energy.

Now the reigning World Champions, the team will have an even bigger platform to show how electric mobility can help us all achieve a sustainable future.

Formula E and environmental sustainability

Envision Racing has competed in the Formula E championship since its inaugural season in 2014-15, first as DS Virgin Racing and then, from the 2018-19 season, as Envision.

Formula E is the world’s first all-electric international single-seater championship. Founded in 2014, the sport was the first to achieve ‘net zero’ status, and last year was ranked first in the Global Sustainability Benchmark in Sport (GSBS)’s annual report. The sport was commended for its full-scope emissions reporting and commitment to ISO certifications.

The 2022-23 season saw the introduction of the GEN3 car, which Jamie Reigle, CEO of Formula E, has described as ‘a machine created at the intersection of high performance, efficiency and sustainability’.

The founding mission of Formula E was to ‘show just what sustainable mobility is capable of’, and to showcase the best of EV technology.

While there has been some debate around how Formula E’s EV technology might translate into ordinary vehicles, there is no doubt that the fast-growing sport has raised the profile of EVs in a short period of time, and competing teams have the unique experience of being part of a new sport that has been focused on sustainability from the very beginning.

Envision Racing: ‘The greenest team on the greenest grid’

Envision Racing claims that its main goal is to help accelerate society’s transition to ‘clean, secure, and affordable energy’ as well as the ‘mass adoption of e-mobility’.

The team does this through its initiative, the Race Against Climate Change (RACC), and through its own environmental policy.

When it comes to its own operations, the team has committed to continuously reduce its carbon footprint and GHG emissions; to adopt a reduce, recover, recycle, and reuse approach to resources; to reduce energy consumption; to implement a sustainable travel policy; and to encourage employees to adopt green practices.

The team are signatories to the UNFCCC Sport for Climate Action Framework and have been certified ‘carbon neutral’ by the Carbon Trust, which included evaluation of scope 1 and scope 2 emissions and scope 3 business travel. Envision have published an environmental impact report every year since 2021.

Envision have also engaged in partnerships beyond the world of sport: they were the first team in world sport to partner with COP26, have partnered with Harrods to showcase zero-emissions vehicles, and have also partnered with TIME magazine.

The Race Against Climate Change

The team’s main environmental programme, the Race Against Climate Change, covers its public-facing work.

RACC includes four key pillars: RACC Live, which hosts events and summits in cities including London, Berlin and New York; RACC Community, which develops education programmes for schools and communities; and two research and policy pillars, RACC Research and RACC Policy.

Through RACC, Envision have developed a number of high-profile initiatives which have engaged international audiences on topics including pollution, e-waste, and how to reduce carbon emissions.

One recent initiative, Recover E, saw Envision partner with artist and designer Liam Hopkins to create a full-size, driveable Formula E car made entirely from e-waste. Children and young people aged between 9 and 21 were then invited to enter a competition to create their own car by recycling old electrical items.

Meanwhile, an earlier initiative, Sustainable Chain, was launched as a legacy project following the team’s involvement in COP26 and called on individuals to make pledges to reduce their individual carbon footprints. The team have also visited London schools with London Mayor Sadiq Kahn to raise awareness of air pollution and EV alternatives.

Race Against Climate Change Live 2023

Following a season of initiatives and events, the build-up to last weekend’s on-track success concluded with a RACC live event held at London’s Science Museum, hosted by Sky Sports presenter David Garrido.

Held in partnership with the New Scientist, the live event focused on the next steps for electric mobility and the role that circularity will play in the growing industry.

The event kicked off with a keynote speech from Professor Ed Hawkins MBE, climate scientist at the University of Reading and creator of the climate data visualisation initiative #ShowYourStripes. Highlighting the simple message—that the world is warming because of our actions, and that this warming will continue until we reach net zero emissions—Professor Hawkins emphasised the need to reach out to begin conversations so that everyone, from individuals to businesses to governments, is aware of the actions they can take.

Later on, two panel sessions focused on accelerating the transition to sustainable transport systems and tackling e-waste. Speakers came from backgrounds including business, government, NGOs, and the media, and included Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles, Dr. Maria Neira, Director of Public Health at WHO, and Kirsten Siemen, Chief Sustainability Officer at General Motors.

Roger Atkins, founder of Electric Vehicles Outlook, hosted the first panel on accelerating the transition to sustainable transport, and concluded that, as well as decarbonisation, ensuring clean urban air is also important. The panel noted how the transition to EVs has accelerated over the past six years, and highlighted that the next few years present a huge opportunity for people to join a growing industry that will create high-quality green jobs.

Following the first panel, a video interview with scientist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall was shown to the audience. Dr. Goodall emphasised the interconnections between nature and humanity, and reiterated the importance of hope—as well as the urgent need for everyone to act quickly.

Hosted by Graham Lawton, columnist at the New Scientist, the second panel highlighted the importance of adopting a circular approach to developing EV technology for society to feel the full benefits of the transition.

The event concluded with a conversation with actor Aidan Gallagher, the youngest-ever UN Goodwill Ambassador, who discussed how he became involved with climate activism at a young age.

Held only one day before the London ePrix, the RACC Live event covered many of the key issues that Envision, and Formula E, are keen to address: how adopting EV technology can help society decarbonise and improve air quality; the importance of circularity; and the need to engage wider audiences and encourage everyone to act now to decarbonise.

Lessons for wider industry

After a busy season off the track, Envision took its first-ever Formula E title on the weekend, boasting 304 points, four wins, and four pole positions over the course of the season. The concluding race of Season 8, held in and around the London ExCel arena, marked the crowning of the first Champions in Formula E’s GEN3 era. Envision secured the Teams title after driver Nick Cassidy won the final race, though Cassidy came second to Andretti Autosport’s Jake Dennis in the Drivers’ Championships.

The team’s impressive win demonstrates how a commitment to environmental sustainability can go hand-in-hand with on-track success.

Electric motor racing teams are uniquely positioned to tap into debates around clean mobility and the energy transition. Unlike older sports, Formula E and EV racing have centred sustainability from the beginning and can link their on-track technology to real-world problems that urgently need solving.

Envision Racing has consistently reached out to engage audiences beyond the sport while also focusing on getting its own house in order. As the race to decarbonise intensifies, teams within electric racing and beyond serve as an example of how sports teams can draw on their strengths to ensure a cleaner, safer future for us all.

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