23 Sep 20

Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle speaks at FIA Smart Cities eForum

The CEO of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, Jamie Reigle, spoke at the FIA's Smart Cities Asia-Pacific eForum on Wednesday (September 23) on the reshaping and redefining of mobility and sport in unprecedented times.

The FIA Smart Cities initiative - launched in 2017, with the aim of ensuring that mobility in the cities of tomorrow is safer, cleaner and more accessible for all road users - held its second Season 4 eForum with a regional focus on Asia-Pacific on Wednesday, September 23.

The event gathered leaders from international organisations, the public and private sectors, and the FIA Community, to bring insights into how they are adapting to the new mobility normal, on how real-time data is used to measure the pandemic’s impact on road users’ behaviour, and how this data can better guide the decision-making process.

Experts in the field of urban transport discussed the future of mobility in a COVID-19 world, looking at some of the possible scenarios for transportation and innovation in a new era, with Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle offering up how the championship has adaptated and strengthened its purpose as well as how it plans to deal with the challenges ahead.

"This is a really special partnership with the FIA around Smart Cities," said Reigle, in his opening remarks to the conference. "A number of our partners are very actively involved here, with ABB, Julius Baer, Michelin, Mercedes-Benz and Mahindra and it's a really important platform and forum for us to be able to engage in some innovative dialogue.

"We've raced in Hong Kong, and had things gone to plan in 2020, we were meant to race in in Sanya in Seoul, in Jakarta, and we have teams that are based in China and Japan and India. Asia-Pacific is incredibly important to Formula E."

Sport for purpose

"As all good entrepreneurial stories go, Formula E was founded from ideas brought together in a restaurant and noted down on a napkin between FIA President Jean Todt and our founder Alejandro Agag in 2011," added Reigle. "Our explicit purpose is accelerating electric vehicle adoption to address the realities of climate change in and specifically to race in urban environments to demonstrate the potential around urban mobility, and the future of urban living.

"Formula E is a very serious sport, but it also has this purpose of addressing climate change. And that vision is very much at the core of our product - we use the power of sport to inspire and to tell stories and climate change is the most important story of our time. Our message matters more than ever today and it's amazing to think that Alejandro and the President started this journey in 2012. 

"The climate agenda is, of course, much higher up the order of things today than it was a years ago. We're proud of our progress since then but the reality is electric vehicles still represent a tiny proportion of automobiles on the road, so our mission is very much live and relevant.

"We paused our season in March, and we cancelled our first race in China on February 2. So we've very much been managing our way through a COVID-19 reality for some time. What it has done, though, is it's really focused our minds. In Hong Kong, the haze has lifted and you can see the islands. That's a positive that has been evidenced around the world even amid the crisis.

"It demonstrates to all of us, especially those that live in cities that human activity has a great impact on emissions, air pollution and the climate. So, our reason to be is even more pertinent now than perhaps it was at the outset."

Adapting in unprecedented times

"We completed Season 6 in Berlin in August after the uncertainty brought about during the pandemic that has affected every business worldwide and regarding the current situation, I suspect we're going to be managing COVID-19, into a second calendar year," continued Reigle.

"The good news is that we have a very close partnership with the FIA, a lot of access to knowledge and resource that really enables us to prioritise health and safety. That was a really important dialogue that we had, not only with the FIA as the governing body, but with all of our peers in motorsport.

"What was really refreshing is, is how it brought our sector and industry together to share ideas, even though notionally we compete on the margins, I think, in this environment, we were sharing ideas, we were collaborative, and we were all very focused on how do we get back to the track and deliver our product.

"What we did in really simple terms was prioritise completing the championship, protect our ecosystem and our stakeholders and make sure that they are safe and healthy - all while being completely respectful of the communities in which we race. We really set the standard in terms of protocols with a bubble, where everyone in Berlin from teams, drivers and mechanics to everyone on the ground with Formula E.

"We also innovated on the product with a really compressed calendar: nine days, six races, three tracks, one champion. That was effectively a half-season in just over a week. Its success allows us to look forward with confidence that we will be able to adapt.

"In 2020, everyone was finding their way in the dark a little bit but I think now we have clarity, about how we have to go about our business to try to bring our championship back because that's what the fans want. That's really important, we have an obligation to do it for them."

Net zero from inception

Formula E is the first sport to have a net zero carbon footprint since inception, investing in internationally certified projects in all race markets to offset emissions from six seasons of electric racing, a commitment that tallies with the sentiments of the FIA's Purpose Driven initiative. 

"We made a major announcement on Monday (September 21), which we're incredibly proud of," said Reigle on Formula E's net zero certification. "We believe that our message is really important, and we need to race to be able to deliver that message. So therefore, we have offset all of our unavoidable emissions from inception. We're the first motorsport but also the first sport to have achieved that certification.

"What's most important is we're committed to this going forward. It was not a point in time announcement, it is not a press release. It is a commitment to show that motorsport can be a force for good, in-line with the FIA's Purpose Driven initiative."

The FIA's next Smart Cities eForum takes place on November 12 with a focus on The Americas. Visit fiasmartcities.com for more