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Formula E

Together in electric dreams: how Chinese interest has manufacturers flocking to Formula E

Electric vehicles set for market boom in China with manufacturers looking for a piece of the action through the racing series

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 7:13pm

The eyes of the motorsport world may be fixed on Hong Kong this weekend, but China is never far from anyone’s mind.

“All the car manufacturers, particularly the ones in Formula E, have huge commercial interest in selling cars in China,” said Techeetah managing director Ivan Yim at the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix.

The China-owned Formula E team are ready to pounce as the Mainland government imposes strict deadlines for implementation of new energy vehicles (NEVs) in a push to combat air quality concerns.

The Mainland wants 12 per cent of all cars on Chinese roads to be either all-electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen-powered by 2020.

“If you look at the government policies in China, it’s regulated, and when China moves those regulations on, commercial entities are expected to follow. And they will always make sure they follow,” said Yim.

China, the world’s largest car market selling more than 28 million in 2016, is also already the most lucrative battery-powered vehicle market.

And if all goes according to plan, NEVs should go on to make up one-fifth of car sales in China by 2025.

It’s one of the principle reasons why Formula E’s tally of nine participating manufacturers is swelling with the addition of big guns Porsche and Mercedes next season.

“If you had to pick a single motorsports series, you have to pick the fastest growing one; and that is Formula E,” said Yim.

“As China is already the largest electric vehicle market, it’s an extremely important market and going forward, a lot of manufacturers are selling more cars in China than on any other continent.”

Another China-based Formula E team, NIO, is also taking big strides in electric vehicle development and plans to release its highly-anticipated electric seven-seater SUV, the ES8, in 2018.

The three-year-old company’s exponential growth can be attributed to huge investors, including Baidu and Tencent.

Likewise for Techeetah, which is owned by Chinese equity firm Chinese Media Capital (CMC) in association with its capital group SECA – the franchise no longer needs to think about getting its foot in the door of the Chinese market.

CMC had already announced a multimillion dollar investment in Formula E Holdings earlier this year in a real push to expand Formula E in China.

“It’s heading in the right direction and the strategic position to come to Formula E was the right one, said Yim, adding that CMC has also invested in NHL and NBA in China.

“Formula E is our first motor racing venture, so we are looking to build the brand. We bought a struggling team [Techeetah] that couldn’t meet its finances.

“We could sell the team tomorrow and make our money back, but that’s not our objective.”

After hosting the first Formula E Grand Prix in 2014 and the season opener again in 2015, China has stepped aside for Hong Kong the last two seasons.

“We’re hoping there will be a race – or two – in China in the forthcoming season. We’re working on that,” said Yim.