Electric dreams: Hosting a leg of the Formula E series will put Hong Kong at forefront of the technology race
The thought of cars racing competitively through the streets of Central may not be to the liking of anyone other than motorsports enthusiasts. But the adding of Hong Kong to the Formula E championship is about technology, not filling roads with petrol fumes and the ear-splitting roar of engines. The vehicles will be electric and environmentally friendly, and the innovations used to make them go faster and batteries to last longer will help improve the industry. As a bonus, the thousands of spectators from elsewhere expected to join the local ranks will bring millions of dollars and prestige to our city.
Signing up to the 10-city series for the October 9 ePrix event next year is a good move. Hong Kong dithered over whether to join when the idea was first put forward in 2013, despite the organisers, fronted by Spanish entrepreneur Alejandro Agag, being serious players who know what they are doing. Their target audience is not Formula 1 - Singapore hosts a race - or Formula 3, held in Macau; they aim to appeal to people who are urban, eco-friendly and tech-savvy. Our city is all that and offers the bonus for viewers of one of the world's finest harbours with the famous backdrop of skyscrapers and steep, green hills.
Formula E sees itself as the future of motorsports. Other series are losing spectators and the premier championship, Formula 1, is mired in negativity, the criticism including cars being seen as too easy to drive and the domination of the Mercedes team. It does not want to be compared to F1, GP2 or F3, instead positioning itself to the young, technology lovers and those who want to protect the environment. That fits in neatly with the automotive industry, with all major carmakers and the biggest tech firms, Google and Apple among them, having either hybrid or electric vehicle programmes.
Climate change and health-conscious citizens also make such an event appealing to governments and sponsors. The cars go at speeds of up to 230km/h, yet produce no air pollution and their engines make a futuristic electronic whine. Running on downtown streets gives the opportunity to promote a city and allow easy access to spectators. Hong Kong's image as a place that embraces technology will be enhanced.
Just as with F1 with petrol-driven cars, the innovations of Formula E will trickle down and benefit the electric-vehicle industry. Those innovations will increasingly turn drivers onto electric cars. Being among cities hosting the series will help put Hong Kong at the forefront of the technology race.