Motorsport has long been a driver of science and innovation in areas such as aerodynamics, engines and car design, but rarely environmental research.
In fact, the two might be considered to be at odds. But for Extreme-E, launched by the same team behind Formula E, the environment considerations have been central since inception.
Electric SUVs will compete off-road in five races across a nine-month calendar, which has been specially designed to negate much of the need for air freight of the cars and teams – instead organisers are currently reconditioning the former Royal Mail ship the St Helena to become a ‘floating paddock’.
Today’s announcement confirms that the St Helena will also become a floating laboratory.
Extreme E are inviting scientists to join them and conduct research during voyages between race locations, with the work focusing on gaining a better understanding of climate change and suggesting opportunities to lessen impacts.
Dr Lucy Woodall, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford and a member of Extreme E’s science committee, said: “This is going to be an opportunity for a broad range of scientists and we are really hoping to target those that are currently unrepresented on ships across the globe.”
“When we bid as scientists to go on ships, there’s a huge amount of competition, so we’re looking at people who are over the age of 18 and with a minimum experience in a graduate programme.
“They’ve got the basic knowledge, maybe done stuff in coastal waters. And now is their opportunity to flourish in the high seas.”
The circulation and warming of our oceans is not just important for marine life, but also the wider climate of our planet and Dr Woodall says this presents an opportunity for a wide range of research that will continue with each yearly series.
“We think [research] is likely to be from climate change consequences and maybe looking at investigating strategies for mitigating those in the future. So this could be anything from the atmosphere or down to looking at how a large marine mammals operate in the ocean.”
The series hopes to be net zero carbon itself by the end of its first season and is being backed by Lewis Hamilton, who has been increasingly vocal on issues around climate change and the environment.
The Formula 1 world champion is heading up the X44 team, which will compete in the series. The five race locations, including Greenland, Brazil and Senegal have all been chosen because they are areas considered to be at the frontline of climate change.
But the series is being careful not to make anything worse: “There are environmental impact assessments, which independent auditors are looking at to make sure that there is minimal damage,” added Woodall.
“In all of the locations there is going to be science legacy projects. Extreme-E is giving the publicity to the challenges of climate change: what do we need to do where are our behaviour changes?”