Formula E aims to spark interest in electric cars

Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:15am EST
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By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - A new series of high-speed electric car races in city centers around the world will aim to boost the market for battery-powered vehicles and advance the technology behind them, its backers said on Tuesday.

Formula E, which has the blessing of motor sport's FIA governing body, plans to stage its first race in Beijing next September and has signed up commercial partners including French car manufacturer Renault SA and tyre maker Michelin.

Formula E Chief Executive Alejandro Agag said the excitement of cars racing at speeds of 220 kph (135 mph) through the heart of cities including London, Miami and Los Angeles should help electric vehicles to shrug off an image problem and fine-tune their technologies.

"Electric cars are still perceived as slow, even as ugly or not cool, something that people don't want to buy for their day-to-day lives," said Agag, who is investing $100 million in the series with fellow Spaniard Enrique Banuelos.

"We want Formula E to be the place where all those technologies are tested, where all those advances happen," Agag told a presentation in London.

Agag's ambitions were supported by a study from consultancy EY saying the races could help to boost electric vehicle sales by as much as 77 million units over the next 25 years - a dramatic increase on current levels.

New York-based market research firm ABI for instance estimates global electric car sales will reach 150,000 this year and grow 48 percent annually to reach 2.3 million in 2020.

California-based Tesla Motors Inc has already demonstrated the performance capabilities of electric propulsion with its 125 mph Model S.   Continued...

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings, poses for a photograph with the Formula E car on display in London November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor