Yesterday marked a year since the concept of the Electric GT World Series was announced. The championship is to be the first zero emissions super car GT international series, with plans to use a version of the Tesla Model S and its first season predicted to start as soon as this year. One year on from the all-electric championship being confirmed, I caught up with Electric GT’S CEO Mark Gemmell to find out how preparation for the series is going, why he wanted to create an Electric GT Championship and what the future may hold for electric cars in both motorsport and the motoring industry.
“I have been driving electric cars for a while,” Gemmell began. “Tesla started manufacturing the roadster about eight years ago and that car caught the attention of a lot of us in the software world. When you’re driving [the Roadster] you realise that this isn’t some silly toy, it feels like a genuinely good car and it’s all electric. It didn’t take long to understand that this really is a meaningful change in transport. So knowing that, then you would say “I’m expecting to see some good electric car racing”.
“The Formula E Championship came along, eventually,
but it really hasn’t been directly linked to the cars on the road”
“The FIA Formula E Championship came along, eventually, but it really hasn’t been directly linked to the cars on the road and so it’s made it hard to understand what it means for the public. We were looking at the new Tesla, the big one, the Model S, which we use in the championship, and we thought “this car is very good, it should be on the circuit: why is nobody racing it?” After asking that question a few times we thought it must be that we have to do it. So that was it. Great car, nobody is racing it, so we will race it.”
True to their word, they did just that. Their official launch was hosted in Ibiza last September and they have since held promotional events involving Prince Albert of Monaco and recently at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, with the latter being the biggest audience the championship had seen to date. However, despite all this promotion, very little is still known about the championship. There are hopes that ten teams with a great international mix will compete during the first season, with a balanced amount of male and female drivers which is a high point of interest for many.
“There are less women drivers and that does mean you don’t run into so many of them and the good drivers are often busy. It isn’t easy. It is our intention to get a good mix, it is also our intention to get a good international mix of teams. We have to raise interest in North America and in China and we will just see how that works out.”
Raising an interest in areas such as Asia will be crucial for the championship, as well as other all-electric series such as Formula E. Heavy interest is already being shown into China, which was recently described as “the most important Electric Vehicle market worldwide” by Gilles Normand, Senior Vice President, Electric Vehicle of Groupe Renault. Some argue that the FIA Formula E championship has yet to reach its real potential in places like Asia, although they have hosted ePrix at locations such as Beijing and Hong Kong.
“[Formula E] are very popular in Japan. I think ultimately as people get more and more exposed to electric transport, they will appreciate what Formula E are doing. In addition, Formula E will advance and will offer more powerful vehicles and more responsive too. It is a change that is on its way and from what I know from China, there is a lot of interest. We said we are going into negotiations with China GT Golden Force and it could be that we have races in China maybe sooner than we thought.”
With all this talk of racing in China and having an worldwide mix of teams and drivers, questions have been asked if we will actually see any racing from the Electric GT championship this year. It was a big ask to get a championship up and running just a year after announcing its first plans, however Mark seems to think it’s possible.
“Essentially the goal for 2017 is to launch the championship: to be able to run seven races competently, to offer a good spectacle to the public and to have a situation where a team can invest to become one of our partners and see a return in terms of sponsorship sales and essentially have an enjoyable fruitful business.
“These cars are extremely agile and the same time very simple technologically. It is a big change for the industry and I don’t think everybody is the industry is comfortable with the change.
“Hybrids were interesting ten years ago but now it’s game over for that. It is full-electric and rather like ten years ago, phones used to have buttons on them and it didn’t take long for that to change. A manufacture who was making phones with buttons on was either clueless about the change or had a death wish. You really have to understand that this change is not optional, it’s not like you can stand and say that “I am doing to do this or I’m not going to do this”: you either do it or you get out of the business completely. Hybrids were meaningful ten years ago but really it’s done. It’s 100% electric.”
You can keep up to date on the Electric GT Championship through their website http://www.electricgt.co/ and various social media accounts including their Twitter page (@EGTChampionship).