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CERAWeek Conversations: Driving Towards Electric Vehicles

Published Mar 15, 2019 by Maggie Martin

CERAWeek EV Tech
Eric Ernst (left), with Formula E, chats with Ian Weightman of IHS Markit.

What do car racing and the future of sustainability have in common? That’s what a conversation at CERAWeek explored here in Houston on Thursday.

Ian Weightman, Senior Vice President of global technology research and operations at IHS Markit, sat down with Eric Ernst, who heads up technology at Formula E.

For those unfamiliar with the championship, it’s an all-electric street-racing series created by FIA President Jean Todt and Spanish businessman Alejandro Agag just a few years ago. According to Formula E’s website, the goal was to create a series as “a means to demonstrate the potential of sustainable mobility to help create a better, cleaner world.”

“Electric mobility is just as good as what you’re used to,” said Ernst.

Ernst has been with Formula E for just over a year, and he spoke about recent developments in the motorsport, including how they’ve improved on the cars themselves.

The newest version, “Generation 2,” can go from 0-100 kph in 2.8 seconds. In addition to speed, their newest vehicles have a so-called “attack mode,” which Ernst compared to the videogame “Mario Kart.” When drivers hit an “Activation Zone” on the racetrack, they can use an extra 25kz of power to go faster, but only for a short time.

“It makes the race more interesting,” said Ernst.

But Ernst said there are also challenges with an all-electric street-racing series. For starters, they have to ensure there’s an infrastructure in place for every race.

“You need to have the charger, the energy source, and the distribution,” said Ernst. “You don’t have to be an electric car championship to take down a grid. You cannot come into the center of Rome and just take away power. It’s about producing that in a way that’s sustainable and finding a backup.

Ernst said while Formula E doesn’t have any plans to come to Houston yet, he would love to explore the idea of bringing the motorsport to the Bayou City.

“Houston’s very close to me. I love Houston. I would love to do a race down here.”

Visit the Greater Houston Partnership’s Transportation Committee page and its Sustainability Advisory page for more on how the organization is working to improve transportation and sustainability in the Houston region.

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