07 Apr 18
Ah, the bright lights, big city and, er... air pollution. Not quite so catchy, is it? No, we didn't think so either, so that's why all the way back in 2011, Formula E Founder and CEO and FIA President Jean Todt got together to form the world's first all-electric single seater championship, held on the streets of some of the world's most iconic cities. Why? To help promote zero-emissions transport around the world, in a bid to clear up the air we breathe and make it less toxic. Simple.
Fast forward seven years and we arrive smack bang in the middle of season four of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, just days ahead of the round seven in Rome. With five more rounds in Paris, Berlin, Zurich and the double-header season finale in New York left after that, it's far from over yet. And we don't just mean the racing. The cities we're travelling to over the coming months are plagued with polluted air, mainly from petrol and diesel cars, buses and trucks. So, in aid of World Health Day today, we're celebrating the changes that are being made to combat air pollution in the cities we're racing in for the remainder of season four. Check out what your city is doing below.
Round 7 - Rome
Next up in the Formula E calendar is Rome - home to historic landmarks like the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican City but perhaps not for much longer. In early 2011, officials reported that pollution in Italy was reaching crisis levels, with one of the side effects of air pollution - acid rain - eroding many of Rome's ancient buildings at unprecedented rates. Couple to that the fact that particle pollution causes nine per cent of deaths in Italians aged over 30 and we have a serious problem. But change is on the horizon. Alongside the arrival of Formula E, the mayor of Rome revealed plans to ban diesel cars from travelling in parts of the city centre from 2024.
Round 8 - Paris
After Rome, we're heading to Paris - the city of light - and the birthplace of Formula E. In 2016, a study found that air pollution was the cause of 48,000 deaths in France every year and around 200,000 people (10 per cent of Parisians) are still regularly exposed to more pollution than allowed by the daily limit. But, like Rome, Paris was one of the first cities to announce a ban on all petrol and diesel cars in the city by 2030 back in October 2017, paving the way for an electric revolution. "Paris is committed to developing alternative and sustainable transportation," said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris ahead of the championships arrival in the city. "That’s why we are proud to welcome the 3rd Formula E Paris E-Prix, a unique sporting event and a fantastic opportunity to break down the barriers to clean mobility for the citizens of Paris."
Round 9 - Berlin
With Paris down it's on to Germany's capital Berlin, where an estimated 40 per cent of emissions come from traffic. After 2014, when the country had the highest number of deaths linked to air pollution (80,767) in Europe, higher than the UK (64,351) and France (63,798), it was clearly time to do something. Earlier this year, Germany's government proposed making public transport free by the end of the year to tackle the air pollution crisis. The news follows the 'Dieselgate' scandal, which placed one of German's core industries - car production - under the spotlight after it emerged that carmakers were producing cars that didn't meet emissions regulations. Following the scandal, many German car companies such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Audi have focused their attention on Formula E to help develop more sustainable, zero emission, all-electric road cars.
Round 10 - Zurich
Bucking the trend in Europe is one of Switzerland's most iconic cities. Built on the lakeside and surrounded by mountains, Zurich was found to have the cleanest air in a study of 23 European cities in 2015. What makes Zurich so much cleaner than any other European city is that its authorities have been acting on the problem since 1980, when a study found that the city had dangerous levels of air pollution. So, in 1986, the city started monitoring the levels of air pollution, tightening up every year by enforcing stricter exhaust emission regulations for vehicles, refurbishing heating systems and retrofitting waste incinerators. Today, public transport, pedestrians and bicycles account for 75 per cent of Zurich’s total traffic with almost 50 per cent of households not owning their own car, relying on car sharing and public transport instead. And, making the most of digital tech, the cities authorities have the ability to send each resident an SMS message when ozone and particulate matter exceeds thresholds. To celebrate all that work on air quality improvement, Switzerland - where circuit racing was previously banned - lifted restrictions on fully-electric racing, paving the way for Formula E to bring circuit racing back to Switzerland for the first time since 1954. It's going to be quite a show - click here to learn more.
Round 11 & 12 - New York City
Finishing up with a double-header season finale in New York City, it's back to the Big Apple for round 11 and 12. While the World Health Organisation estimate there to be around seven million deaths per year due to air pollution globally, New York City accounts for 200,000 of those alone, with the majority of those linked to fumes from cars, trucks and other transportation. But times are a changin'. After the city passed the Clean Air Act in 1970 and then amended it 1990, the four years that followed saw air pollution decrease 20 per cent each year. On top of that, the government launched PlaNYC, the city’s first sustainability initiative, in 2007 which is aiming for New York City to have the cleanest air quality of any major U.S. city by 2030. How? By adding electric vehicles to the city fleet, phasing in clean sources of electricity and making buildings more efficient.
It's all about the next gen
Think next gen and we think of our batmobile-like Gen2 car that launched earlier this year at the Geneva motor show - naturally. But, it's not always about the cars. As Formula E's Founder and CEO said at the Gen2 reveal, "it's not just a car, it's also a weapon for climate change." That's why Formula E partnered up with Global Action Plan, to make it our mission to target young people on their excessive consumption and throwaway attitude but, most importantly, air quality. During January 2018, GAP and Formula E ran a Clean Air Programme Pilot with Preston Manor School, a mixed all-through school near Formula E's headquarters in London.
In a two week campaign run by the schools 'Clean Air Champions' they raised awareness about air quality with 800 students and 150 visitors, while 130 students signed a petition encouraging the adoption of electric busses. At the end of the two-week campaign, 99 students made pledges to change their attitude towards consumption and air quality. This, coupled with Formula E promoting the global adoption of electric mobility means the air we breathe is set to get better - much better - in years to come.