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AutoMatters & More: Extreme E off-road racing promotes electrification, the environment & equality

Extreme E E-SUV Odyssey 21
Extreme E E-SUV Odyssey 21

The word extreme conjures up visions of being at the very edge of what is possible. Extreme E is an extreme, new, global, off-road racing series that highlights the climate emergency and encourages positive changes, to help make our world a better place.

Demonstrating by example, Extreme E promotes sustainable vehicle electrification, to significantly reduce the damage being done to our environment. The locations of the events are chosen because of their problems with the environment, and to address them, bringing renowned scientists to conduct scientific research and mitigation on-site. Extreme E also addresses the serious societal challenges of gender inequality, in what has traditionally been male-dominated motorsports.

Extreme E features cutting edge, state-of-the-art, purpose-built, powerful, fully electric SUVs, powered by renewable electricity. They are skillfully and courageously raced by the very best male and female racing drivers in the world, in the most extreme, harsh, perilous conditions imaginable — many miles from civilization.

Start of a race
Start of a race

Extreme E’s CEO is Alejandro Agag, the founder of the Formula E open-wheel electric racing series.

Extreme E utilizes the latest in TV technology to bring the racing to us, intentionally discouraging large, live, in-person audiences that would negatively impact the environment.

Each of the race teams is comprised of one man and one woman, sharing one vehicle with a driver change in-between. The competitors come from the world of motorsports: predominantly rallying, in its various forms. Familiar names include Sébastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz, American Kyle Leduc and F-1 champion Jensen Button. Less familiar, but no less skilled and motivated to win, are the women, including Molly Taylor, Jamie Chadwick and American Sara Price.

Close race kicks up dust
Close race kicks up dust

Familiar partners in the race teams include Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosports. Team principals include motorsports luminaries, including multiple Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who sees Extreme E as a means to having a positive impact on saving our planet and promoting diversity through motorsports; and former fellow Mercedes F-1 driver and World Champion Nico Rosberg.

Each race team shares one fully electric, off-road, high torque, ODYSSEY 21 racing SUV. Their high-performance stats include 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 per cent! The battery is produced by F-1’s Williams Engineering. The crash structure —which would be tested in a spectacular, scary barrel roll in the very first event — is a high-tech, niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frame. The tires are also purpose-built, designed specifically for the extreme conditions by founding partner Continental Tires.

Steep downhill terrain
Steep downhill terrain


The strong focus on the environment and sustainability are exemplified by such things as zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle charging. Serving as the freight and logistics hub is the extensively refurbished and modernized historic ship, the St. Helena, so that jet aircraft need not be used to transport people, equipment and the fully equipped, staffed, on-board science laboratory for environmental research.

The awe-inspiring setting for the inaugural Extreme E race weekend was the remote, inhospitable, massive Saudi Arabian desert. It looks like an alien planet, with huge, dark, ominous, craggy boulders; sweeping sand dunes and not another living being in sight.

All four tires off of the ground
All four tires off of the ground

Driving skill, race strategy and courage are the keys to victory. At the start of the weekends final races, the raced side-by-side, calling upon all their years of experience and skill in a battle to win the coveted lead position, in order to leave their fellow competitors in their dust. Those who followed closely were blinded by thick clouds of sand dust, forcing them to either back off or risk bold strategies to retake the lead for themselves. Since there were no track limits – only occasional gates that must be driven through — the racers explored different, shorter racing lines, ever mindful and aware of the critical need to avoid obstacles in their paths that could suddenly and unforgivingly send them crashing out.

They launched high into the air, cresting the rugged terrain; perilously weaved their way in between enormous, towering boulders; and dived, plunging headlong at extreme, breakneck speed, down the long, dangerous, remote backside of an enormous sand dune, knowing full well that if they got sideways on the descent they might tumble down the slope in a perilous barrel roll.

Next race: Senegal, May 29-30. For additional information, visit http://www.extreme-e.com/

To see additional photos, visit www.drivetribe.com, click on the magnifying glass, select “POSTS” and enter “AutoMatters & More #686” in their search bar. Please send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2021 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #686


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