27 Apr 18
"For me, it's a lifetime achievement to be a part of UNEP," says Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler's Lucas di Grassi in the historic surroundings of Les Invalides ahead of the 2018 Qatar Airways Paris E-Prix. As the latest member of the United Nations Environment Programme, di Grassi is more than just an ABB FIA Formula E Championship-winning driver - he's also an environmental entrepreneur.
"I've been promoting sustainable mobility since founding my first NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) in 2007, says di Grassi. "I first discovered the benefits of driving efficiently when I used to drive my mother's car around Sau Paulo. I found out I could use half the amount of fuel she did but I suppose I am a better driver!" he laughs. Alongside racing for Audi in Formula E, di Grassi is also the owner and founder of EDG - an e-bike company specialising in lightweight electric bikes with a 100-km range.
Helping to promote the Breath Life Campaign, UN Environment aims to act on one of the world's biggest silent killers - air pollution. "80 per cent of cities have air that exceeds the World Health Organisation's limits," says Tim Kasten, Deputy Director, Economy Division, UN Environment. Helping to advance and promote zero-emissions mobility, Formula E acts as a test bed for some of the world's largest car manufacturers as they develop the electric cars of tomorrow.
"People are only going to buy electric cars when they are better than combustion engined cars," says Formula E Founder and CEO Alejandro Agag. "To do that, you need to improve the technology and that is exactly what we are doing here. Batteries are the issue in electric cars. We are seeing that the progress is slow but in four years, we've doubled the range of our car's batteries."
With cities contributing disproportionately to the levels of air pollution, making up 75% of global emissions, Formula E can help the UN Environment achieve its aims by racing and showcasing sustainable mobility in the heart of some of the world's most iconic cities, over five continents. "What is so great about having Lucas on board is that he's a champion in more ways than one," says Kasten. "He's a champion in Formula E but also a champion in terms of his promotion of the environment and air quality. We're working with Formula E because we want to promote sustainable mobility to improve the lives of people all around the world," he adds.