Beijing recently put on a display of the future. It was the opening race of the Formula E Championship. I had a chance over the last couple of days to watch the whole event back on catch up TV.
It made me think about what this technology really means and the significance of China hosting the first event.
You see, if this new all electric race series is successful, it could potentially inspire a generation of Chinese. And as it progresses around the world…inspire everyone.
With a successful event, Formula E would set a standard the world will follow.
But more importantly, starting with China it could help them solve one of their biggest problems.
Let me explain what I mean.
We all know China is the world’s most populated country. It’s got somewhere in the ballpark of 1.3 billion people. That’s more than 56 times Australia’s population.
Now of course with that many people come a few problems. One of those is the level of emissions cars in China pump into the atmosphere. I’ve never been to China, let alone Beijing.
Emerging Markets Analyst Ken Wangdong knows the city far better than I. I’m sure he’d back me up when I say it’s a polluted city. From all accounts, the smog levels in Beijing are almost unbearable.
Source: The Guardian
A big contributor to the smog is car pollution. Last year alone, China sold 18 million cars. That’s 16% more than they sold in 2012. China now sells more cars than the US.
As a point of comparison, last year the US car market only grew 8%. That’s total sales of 15.6 million cars.
This growth in China isn’t set to slow down either. It’s estimated that China has only 101 cars per 1,000 people. That ranks them about 100th in the list of vehicles per capita. The US is third (only Monaco and San Marino are higher, but they don’t count).
If you think 18 million cars per year is a lot, you’re right.
But wait until the Chinese market really gets cracking. China’s Ministry of Public Security say passenger car ownership will top 200 million by 2020…that’s like every single person in the UK owning at least three cars!
That many cars in China is an environmental disaster in the making. The Chinese government realise this. They’ve decided that enough is enough. They are currently implementing plans for far stricter emissions regulations. The aim is to cut CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by around 45% from 2005 levels.
A huge part of those reductions in emissions will be through ‘greener’ cars. And that’s where Formula E will help turn the image of EVs on its head.
Formula E will bring a ‘prestige factor’ to electric cars. Right now EV’s still carry a bit of a ‘hippie’ stigma
That’s changing, but not fast enough in a place like China.
However, by ‘glamming up’ electric cars through an F1-like race series the perception might change a bit faster.
By putting on a big, entertaining and exciting event, Formula E will play a crucial role in developing EVs’ public persona in the Chinese market.
The flow on effect from a successful Formula E in Beijing would hopefully be an uptake in EV sales. Of course that’s not something we’ll see just weeks after the event. But perhaps after another year or two the tide might shift.
That’s how important this new series is. Formula E has the potential to set the standard of how people think about EVs.
This isn’t a fact lost on Formula E either. Which is why they now will have Formula E Motor Shows running concurrently with the races around the world.
These will showcase the latest technology and developments in electric cars. Unfortunately, the shows won’t start until the US races. In Miami and Long Beach, the public will be able to test the latest in EV tech. And then as Beijing rolls around next year, China will get a bigger dose of EV tech.
To make an impact in the Chinese market would be a massive coup for Formula E.
Not only will it help the championship evolve into one of the premier motor racing series, but it will also help EV makers and the environment over the long term.
For the record, the Beijing race was a success. And it did get the world’s attention. More likely for the intense final corner crash, but still, it made headlines.
The way I see it, if a simple new approach to motor racing can spark the interest of younger generations, then the future is very bright for electric cars in China and around the world.
Sam Volkering +
Contributing Editor, Money Morning
Ed note: The above article originally appeared in Tech Insider.