The Extreme E, a brand new competitors for electrical 4x4s in 5 ecosystems weakened by international warming, needs to boost public consciousness of ecology. Enough to depart some scientists speechless …
“Scientists have no voice, so we want to use the power of sport to convey a message of climate action,” says Spanish entrepreneur Alejandro Agag, who created the Extreme E championship which begins this Saturday, April 3 in the desert in Saudi Arabia. Four different races are then scheduled, on the oceanic coast in Senegal, close to the ice cap in Greenland, in the Amazon in Brazil and close to glaciers in Argentina.
Alejandro Agag is just not at his first try: in 2014 he created the Formula E 100% electrical single-seater championship. Faced with F1, the premier self-discipline that depends on hybrid engines, electrical represents in response to him ” one of the future ”of motorsport, making it potential to“ follow the transformation of the industry ”.
With the Extreme E, additionally it is a matter of utilizing the race as a “pretext” to hold out concrete actions (mangrove plantations in Senegal, bushes in the Amazon, and so forth.) and “raise awareness” because of the athletes concerned, like F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who created his workforce. The first response amongst scientists is shock. “Is that a joke?” », Exclaims a researcher who didn’t need to be quoted.
“It’s always good to draw attention to weakened ecosystems, and that seems to be the intention, but we can’t really tell if it’s a ploy or the main motivation,” says Adam Markham, deputy director of local weather. and power from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
To cost the batteries of the solely SUV mannequin (a 1,650 kilo prototype) in competitors, “we use hydrogen generators, with green hydrogen, so the carbon footprint of the race itself is zero. », Affirms Alejandro Agag, assuring that the transport of vehicles by cargo also makes it possible to minimize the impact. The rest of the carbon emissions are “offset”.
Nevertheless, for Béatrice Parguel, researcher at the CNRS inside thePSL University (Paris, Sciences et Letters) in Paris, “We cannot say that driving electric is driving responsibly. This assimilation is opportune for the automotive sector but unfounded in the current state of knowledge ”. This environmental advertising and marketing specialist wonders about “the possibility that it is a greenwashing operation”, a approach of giving a picture of a great pupil of the atmosphere.
“It’s always good to draw attention to weakened ecosystems, and that seems to be the intention, but you can’t really tell if it’s a ploy or the main motivation.”
For the trade, “the primary interest of motorsport remains marketing”, replaces Mathieu Sabarly, skilled at Wavestone, which has a number of producers as purchasers. Legitimizing its motion, the Extreme E has arrange a paid “scientific committee” made up of specialists in the environments visited. Oxford professor Richard Washington, an skilled on desertification, is in Saudi Arabia to “make scientific knowledge known to a greater number”.
” Open the eyes “
“I have spent thirty-five years researching and teaching on climate change, but it is too late to rely solely on that, we must move forward in other directions,” he explains. For the driver Sébastien Loeb, utilizing sport to “open people’s eyes, it’s a good thing and motorsport needs it”.
There stay the results on biodiversity. Alejandro Agag assures him: “An impact study is carried out before each race, there are no endangered animals. “” The goal is not to leave a trace. The routes are short (9 km, editor’s note), everything has been done to minimize the impact, ”says Washington.
An oblique threat is to advertise mass tourism in preserved locations. Near the first race is Madain Saleh’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and its monumental tombs dug over 2,000 years in the past.
“Having too many tourists out of control can be very damaging and it’s happening more and more in more distant places,” says Adam Markham, who hopes the Extreme E – which does not host spectators – will take into consideration tourism. sustainable. In the Al-Ula area, at the coronary heart of the vacationer openness promoted by Saudi Arabia since 2019, luxurious motels are in any case able to welcome vacationers, as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic is over.