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Electric Dreams

By Robert Tighe |

Kiwi race driver Mitch Evans has been competing in the Formula E series since 2016. It has made him a believer in electric vehicles and that their future, is now.

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Mitch Evans winning Trophy
 



Motorsport has a long tradition of advancing automotive technology. The rear-view mirror, improved seat belt design, and safety features including anti-lock brakes and traction control were first developed for race cars before becoming standard in road cars.

Today, the Formula E Championship not only showcases what electric cars can do, it has become a proving ground for electric vehicle (EV) technology, including more powerful and efficient motors and faster chargers that end up in the road cars we drive.

The end of the road

When Formula E was launched in 2014 it was greeted with scepticism by motorsport fans. Petrolheads accustomed to the powerful growl of a V8 engine scoffed at the high-pitched whirr of the first-generation Formula E cars. The fact that drivers switched cars halfway through the race before the first car ran out of charge, didn’t do the format any favours.

Now, cars race for 45 minutes and mid-race car swaps are a thing of the past. The cars reach speeds of 175 mph and the racing is close and competitive. More power and technology are on the way when the Gen 3 cars are launched in the 2022-23 season.

"Combustion engines are over," Alberto Longo, the co-founder of Formula E, said recently and the automobile industry has accepted the end is nigh. Most of the world’s top car manufacturers including Jaguar, BMW, Nissan, Audi, and, most recently, Porsche and Mercedes compete in Formula E, which also attracts some of the best racing talent in the sport.

Petrol in his veins

Kiwi driver Mitch Evans has raced in Formula E since 2016. Racing is in Evans’ blood. His father Owen almost lost his life attempting to break his own New Zealand land speed record in 1996. When Mitch was four, his Dad propped him up with pillows in his older brother’s go-kart and let him loose on the track. He’s been blisteringly fast ever since.


Evans won national karting titles before becoming the youngest winner of the Toyota Racing Series in 2010 at the age of 15. The following year he made his debut in Europe in the GP3 series and won the championship in 2012. In 2016, Jaguar Racing offered Evans a drive in the Formula E championship and he has thrived with the British team.

Mitch Evans holding Trophy
“I’ll admit that I was on the fence initially, but I feel really lucky to be part of the electric revolution,” he says. “I grew up racing V8s and turbo engine, petrol-powered cars. My first time behind the wheel of an electric car was a shock to the system. But I really enjoy racing and electric cars are so much fun to drive.”

Evans secured Jaguar’s first ever win in Formula E and finished 4th in the 2021 championship. He recently signed a multi-year contract with the team committing his future to Formula E.


Change is inevitable

“Formula E has improved every year and the level of engineering and technology in the series is so high,” says Evans. “To showcase that as a driver is a special privilege. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor racing, but Formula E is at the cutting edge of future tech. Some motorsport people can't get their head around it, but change is inevitable.”

Evans calls Monaco home now and he’s watched with interest as European governments and the major car brands make the transition to an electric future.


“Jaguar recently announced they will be an all-electric car manufacturer by 2025 and there's a massive push in Europe to install more charging stations and make EVs more accessible,” he says. “I haven't been home to New Zealand for 19 months so I’m not up to speed with what’s happening over there, but the reality is that change is coming, and we need to be prepared for it. To feel like you're having an influence on people's perceptions of EVs is pretty cool.”

 

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