Sexy, Sustainable Formula E Roars Into NYC With Brands Along for the Ride


Formula E racing vehicle Qualcomm ABB Allianz

Many consumers remain hesitant about electric vehicles in part because they worry they have no oomph—that they’re glorified golf carts or bigger versions of a mobility scooter. Those are the disbelievers that some automakers and car-tech companies are targeting with the growing Formula E racing series. Non-automotive brands are climbing on board as sponsors, including ABB (the title sponsor), Qatar Airways (sponsor of the New York event), Allianz, Qualcomm, Michelin, Hugo Boss and DHL.

The electrified (and to some, “more woke”) sibling of Formula One racing that has thrilled fast-car fans around the world for decades is officially called the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. The series consists of battery-powered race cars pushing 140 mph on a growing number of tracks around the world—including one on the streets of Zurich, the first urban circuit in Switzerland in more than a half century.

The current Formula E race series will culminate on July 14-15 with the 2018 Qatar Airways New York City E-Prix race in Brooklyn.

Just like their gasoline- and diesel-powered cousins, Formula E cars are not only fast—they’re loud. The cars contain leading-edge electric batteries and other technology that automakers—including Audi, BMW, Renault and Mahindra—hope will be road-tested for the mainstream EVs that they’re all developing.

In 2016 Audi even pulled out of the World Endurance Championship, where its petrol-powered cars had dominated the annual 24 Hours of LeMans race for more than a decade, in part to focus on Formula E.

“The good thing with Formula E is that you can develop so many things that you will be able to transfer to road cars,” Sebastien Buemi, a Formula E driver for a Renault-sponsored team, told the Seattle Times.

For brand marketers, Formula E is a growing attraction as a platform to spark a conversation that makes sustainability sexy. DHL, the official logistics partner to Formula E, is offering free zero-emission rides in a fleet of 14 Nissan Leafs that will form an e-shuttle service to and from NYC race site Red Hook, not the most convenient part of Brooklyn for public transportation.

Allianz, meanwhile, is leveraging the New York event to highlight its Global Explorer Program, an ongoing partnership with the Museum of Modern Art. Allianz is sponsoring an “immersive virtual reality experience” featuring AI and flights to Mars.

“Collaboration and co-creation between disciplines, people and partners enables innovative and sustainable solutions for the future,” Jean-Marc Pailhol, head of group market management and distribution for Allianz, stated in a press release. “And with the support of MoMA and the ABB FIA Formula E, we have the unique opportunity to explore the visionary power of technology and art here in New York City and invite New Yorkers to join us in exploring the future.”