Motorsport is not only a test bed for new technologies that might provide a competitive edge on the racetrack, but also serves as the ideal platform to showcase these innovations to the world.
From Audi’s promotion of four-wheel drive in 1980’s rallying, through to the energy regeneration capabilities that are commonplace across motorsports categories today, manufacturers turn to racing to market the latest developments for their road cars.
Now, motorsport is leading the push into a new territory of automotive technology, as it promotes the latest advances in electric and autonomous mobility.
The future of racing
While many headlines in the past 12 months have focused on the debate of whether F1 should return to using antiquated and unsustainable engine technologies, the FIA Formula E Championship has put in place the blueprint for the future of motorsport.
The series not only serves to further electric road car technologies, but also to promote them to the general public by making them exciting, enticing and cool. In fact, the batteries and motors were specially designed so that they can be extracted from the Formula E racers for direct use in electric road cars in order to show direct correlation between on-track advances and improvements in efficiency for EVs on our roads.
Next season the series will be supported by Roborace, a unique and entirely new racing category designed to promote autonomous vehicles. Roborace will pitch identical vehicles against one another in order to hone the software that governs them, in order to advance the technology and gain the trust of the public in this emerging science.
It is anticipated that the series will attract a blend of established automotive manufacturers as well as technology companies and challenger brands such as Google and Apple, who are increasingly moving into the automotive industry.
Raising road car relevance
While both series still have their naysayers, Formula E has already attracted greater TV coverage in the USA than F1 and provided intense, exciting racing. Furthermore, and most importantly, both series better reflect the road car industry than any other motorsport today.
For example, the UK Government today announced the introduction of the Modern Transport Bill as part of the Queen’s Speech. The Bill will set in place legislation to progress the development of autonomous and electric vehicles in a bid to deliver better, safer journeys and reduce congestion – which is estimated to cost the UK £20bn each year.
However the UK isn’t alone in promoting autonomous and electric vehicle technologies. The German Government has recently pledged a €1bn subsidy to boost electric car sales – a move which is expected to see more than 400,000 electric cars hit German streets by 2019 – while sales of EVs have risen dramatically in key markets around the world in the past year.
Promoting brands and technology
While F1 may have the prestige, the technology on display will rapidly decrease in relevance to road cars in coming years, while the sport is also increasingly out of touch with fans.
Formula E has gone to great lengths to promote fan interaction at races, special events and on social media. The whole concept of promoting new technologies is built on engagement from consumers – both young and old.
Meanwhile, F1 has actively sought legal action against fans for unsubstantiated social media copyright infringement and has increasingly become exclusionary rather than exclusive. Bernie Ecclestone even went as far to say: “I don’t know why people want to get to the so-called ‘young generation’. Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something? Most of these kids haven’t got any money.”
“I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. So, there’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.”
For manufacturers wishing to promote new technologies to consumers, Formula E and Roborace offer an exciting new marketing prospect and a platform to sell new products to an engaged and educated audience.
This isn’t just great PR, or the future of motorsport, it is the blueprint for a new generation of vehicles. And it’s coming fast!