6th Low Carbon Racing Conference at the NEC, Birmingham – motorsport and automotive key players congregated to debate the fundamental issues concerning the industry and to witness the launch of a potentially history-making electric car.
The recurring theme of the day was the need to engage with the new generation of smartphone equipped fans and how low-carbon racing can be a catalyst for a new era of competition providing major opportunities for the motorsport industry.
Nick Baird, CEO, UK Trade & Investment gave the first keynote speech and spoke of his pride in the output of the British motorsport industry and the technological transfer to other sectors. He emphasised that UK Trade & Investment wants to do all it can to grow businesses and that the Government is anxious to help the sector pick up yet more speed. The MIA was commended for its work on crossover initiatives such as those to the defence and automotive industries.
Two years ago, Lord Drayson, then speaking as a Government Minister, challenged the motorsport industry to produce cooler, green cars. Now – as a managing partner in Drayson Technologies – he has met his own challenge with the unveiling of the Lola Drayson B12/69EV all-electric prototype.
The vision behind the car was to demonstrate potential of sustainable technologies, provide real data on electric vehicle performance, generate business opportunities, highlight speed potential and develop know-how relevant to the new FIA Formula E World Championship.
The car was hailed as revolutionary by the Mercedes AMG F1, Audi and Porsche management, who were panellists. Lord Drayson explained some of the technological advances embraced in the design, including the use of wireless charging technology which, although currently static, he sees as some day being dynamic, enabling cars to recharge while racing out on track.
Lord Drayson was also the afternoon keynote speaker, when he talked about the strategic importance of attracting audiences and sponsorship. He spoke of the benefits of the open rules for the FIA Formula E World Championship. As a former politician, he predicted that, once the economy improves, media focus will return to the environment, which in turn will put pressure on politicians to regulate to reduce emissions and sees this as the time for the motorsport industry to “get ahead of the curve”.
The Showcase Exhibition included three prototype electric vehicles, in addition to the Lola-Drayson Le Mans prototype, the Formulec EF01 Formula 3 type car, the Quimera AEGT01 GT car and the Delta E4 Coupe, providing tangible evidence of the progress being made in the industry. Top speeds for the cars range from 150 to 200mph, showing sceptics that electric does not mean slow.
Three panel sessions with industry experts continued discussions, with audience members participating. There was general agreement that growing spectator numbers for the new type of racing is key, but how to solve the issue wasn’t so apparent.
Chris Aylett, the MIA’s CEO: “The star of the show has to be Lord Drayson’s car. To have the vision and commitment to have got so far in just a year is exceptional. Major manufacturers have to be risk averse, so it is entrepreneurial companies that can be the front runners. But the technology and cars is just one side. Our panellists have all come to the same conclusion: that we need to build up the entertainment side. The new generation of racing will be something very different to suit the new generation of motorsport enthusiasts. Our first conference was nine years ago, when diesel was seen to be a big advance. To have incredible examples of electric racing cars that are a major step ahead just shows how quickly the industry moves. It’s days like yesterday that spur on our members and other companies to make the most of the business opportunities out there.”
UK Trade & Investment CEO Nick Baird: “I am proud to be representing UK Trade & Investment at the sixth MIA International Low Carbon Racing Conference. This is a very important initiative. Low-carbon racing is a new, important and exciting development in the motorsport sector and I am thrilled that the UK is a leading global player. The global market for low-carbon goods and services, of all types, is already worth around £3 trillion and is expected to exceed £4.5 trillion by 2015. With their history of innovation, British motorsport companies are well placed to benefit from these opportunities. UK Trade & Investment is here to help UK companies and the UK motorsport industry as a whole go forward into a prosperous, low-carbon future.”
Lord Drayson, Managing Partner Drayson Technologies & President MIA “The door has been opened to a new opportunity in the electric world. I urge motorsport companies to rush in and maximise it for all its worth. Global brands are looking to the fast growing middle class markets in China and India. China already has a pollution problem and legislation. Establishing a brand in electric racing is a way of grabbing a piece of that fast growing market. I’m very proud of the Lola-Drayson and am encouraged to see the other cars on show here. I hope companies are encouraged to take the Formula E opportunity and look forward to seeing them on the grid in 2013.”