From destroyed Amazonian rainforests to the Himalayas, Extreme E is ‘future of off-road racing’

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(CNN)When Alejandro Agag first touted the idea of Formula E to his close friend and Formula 1’s long-time puppet master Bernie Ecclestone, he was bluntly told he was destined for failure.

But with the series now approaching a $1 billion valuation, Ecclestone was happy enough to eat his words when the pair met for a pre-Christmas lunch.”Bernie in the beginning said, ‘This is never going to work,'” recalled Agag. “When I met him for lunch he could say congratulations, very impressive and he said he’s happy that he was wrong and I was right. But he was very negative in the beginning. He said, ‘Listen, don’t do it, you’re going to crash.’ Luckily, we didn’t.”

    Five years on from its series opener, Ecclestone has been far more receptive as Spaniard Agag starts again from scratch with Extreme E.The new electric series, to be launched in 2021, has been likened to “Blue Planet meets the Dakar Rally,” and is “the future of off-road racing,” according to Agag.Read MoreThe premise of the series is to take electric SUVs to the most remote and extreme locations on the planet, from the destroyed rainforests of the Amazon to the Himalayas, and from the deserts of Saudi Arabia to the rising oceans affecting Senegal to raise awareness of the damage of climate change.READ: Formula E hopes to ‘accelerate’ use of electric vehicles

    Kevin Hansen testing the Odyssey, the car for the Extreme E series.Agag is confident there is the room for another electric series out there.”My conviction is that there’s a huge appetite for Extreme E,” he told CNN from Extreme E’s London offices. “The beauty is that all these challenges are connected. In Greenland, we were seeing the melting of the ice caps then in Senegal on the coast we saw families having to migrate as their homes are being destroyed by the rising seas level. That is the same water we saw melting in the Arctic.”

    Lewis Hamilton to Formula E

    The Spaniard is well aware there will be pitfalls. At one stage, Formula E was down to its last $100,000 in the bank while owing $25 million to its suppliers, a pressure that he admits meant he was not sleeping at night. Now, it is into its sixth season and Agag is targeting even bigger names joining the grid, namely six-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has recently been pushing environmental issues.READ: An electric car to get you from London to Paris”It would be great to have Lewis in Formula E but I don’t see it happening soon,” he said. “I’m sure Lewis wants to win more F1 championships, there’s some records for him to beat. He’s an outstanding driver and also a great personality, plus I think his statements for the environment are really important. He’s someone that helps make the world wake up and that’s important.”With Extreme E, there have been no shortage of driver suitors. Six-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier has already signed up as an ambassador, while double amputee Billy Monger and ex-Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi are among a long list of drivers to have expressed an interest.READ: Lewis Hamilton defends environmental social media posts, aims to be ‘carbon neutral’

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    ‘Breaking eggs’

    The racing itself sees groups of six teams compete with the top four going through to the knock-out stage with head-to-heads for a place in the final on a course about six miles long with virtual gates to navigate in often extreme conditions.The series will have a floating grid, the series and its cars traveling from venue to venue via former Royal Mail ship RMS St Helena. But won’t it have its own carbon footprint on the planet?”Extreme E will have a footprint,” he added. “But as we say in Spain, if you want to make an omelette you need to break some eggs. We need to take action and we think staying at home is not the solution. We think the benefits of championships like Extreme E far exceeds the emissions a championship like this will generate.”There are plans to replant forests where they race in a deforested part of the Amazon or else help with agriculture projects for local communities in the Himalayas.READ: Jump on board the world’s largest electric vehicle

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonMexico City, R4: Porsche’s Andre Lotterer (right) led the field off the grid from pole in what was an incident filled Mexico E-Prix.Hide Caption 1 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonA huge crowd reported to number about 100,000 turned out to watch the electric racing series.Hide Caption 2 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonA helmeted fireman watches on as the race unfolds.Hide Caption 3 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonAustralia’s Mitch Evans, driving a Panasonic Jaguar Racing car, overtook Lotterer on the first corner and built up a sizeable lead to win by more than four seconds. Hide Caption 4 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonSantiago, Chile, R3: Victory goes to Maximilian Günther of the BMW i Andretti Motorsport team. Hide Caption 5 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonAt 22, Gunther became the youngest Formula E race winner in history.Hide Caption 6 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonThe E-Prix Antofagasta Minerals was the third round of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.Hide Caption 7 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonDiriyah, Saudi Arabia, R2: Alexander Sims sets the early pace during the second E-Prix of the season in Diriyah.Hide Caption 8 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonBMW’s Sims celebrates following his maiden Formula E victory.Hide Caption 9 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonDiriyah, Saudi Arabia, R1: Porsche’s Neel Jani leads the pack in practice ahead of the first Formula E race of the season in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.Hide Caption 10 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonSam Bird celebrates after winning the first race of the Formula E Championship.Hide Caption 11 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonNico Müller of Switzerland turns a corner in Diriyah.Hide Caption 12 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonPascal Wehrlein comes over the crest of hill during practice ahead of the first E-Prix of the season.Hide Caption 13 of 14

    Photos: The 2019/20 Formula E seasonDaniel Abt avoids some spilled liquid on the track in Diriyah.Hide Caption 14 of 14

    ‘F1 will have to become electric one day’

    Agag says he has been pushing green credentials for more than two decades, harking back to his time in the European Parliament when, as he puts it, “I was putting up questions about sustainability when 21 years ago no one cared about sustainability.”

    Extreme E founder Alejandro Agag (central) with soldiers in a deforested region of the Amazon.”I follow closely what Greta Thunberg and what Extinction Rebellion are doing, and activism is a key part of waking up and the world needs to wake up,” he said.

    Photos: Plugged-in classics

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsA classic E-type Jaguar was ridden by newlyweds Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the way to their evening wedding reception in May, 2018. The 1968 model had been refitted as a zero emissions vehicle prototype. It’s one of a number of classic cars getting an electric makeover.Hide Caption 1 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsConceptual designs for the the E-type Zero are based on the 1968 Series 1.5 Jaguar E-Type Roadster. The car will boast an acceleration of 0-62 mph in 5.5 seconds.Hide Caption 2 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsUnveiled as a concept car in September, 2017, the E-type Zero will maintain all of its 1960s simplicity. That includes a thin wooden steering wheel, retro-fitted side and rear view mirrors, and black leather seats — while adding an electronic dashboard. Hide Caption 3 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsThe Jaguar E-type Zero features a lithium-ion battery pack with the same dimensions and similar weight to the original XK six-cylinder engine used in the classic model. Hide Caption 4 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsReleased in 1961, the E-type is set for a high-end electric relaunch for elite car enthusiasts. Its manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover announced it would stop launching petrol models in 2020 to focus entirely on fully electric or hybrid designs.Hide Caption 5 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsThe original VW campervan, such as this one spotted at the 2017 Bestival music festival in Dorset, are also making a comeback as fully electric vehicles. Hide Caption 6 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsThis Austin Mini Cooper S was pictured in 1967 with its bonnet raised to show the engine. The classic car, made famous by the Michael Caine film “The Italian Job,” will be relaunched in 2019 as a fully electric vehicle. Hide Caption 7 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsA prototype of the Mini Electric was unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April, 2018. Its 2019 launch will coincide with the model’s 60th anniversary. Hide Caption 8 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsAt first glance, the Mini is nearly identical to its 1960s predecessor, save for a fuel-charging socket replacing a gas tank. The BMW Group, which owns the Mini brand, is a leader in electric cars, with two BMW electric models on the market and more planned. Hide Caption 9 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsA classic Volkswagen Westfalia Camper pictured in Sardinia, Italy. Commonly known as the “Camper Van,” the iconic minibus ceased production at the end of 2013 in Brazil. Hide Caption 10 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsHowever, much to the delight of Camper enthusiasts, Volkswagen has announced plans for the I.D. BUZZ — a fully electric vehicle inspired by its predecessor. Hide Caption 11 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsThe I.D. BUZZ is set for launch in 2022, according to Volkswagen, who ensures that the van will be equipped with eight seats and enough space for “bikes and boards.” The I.D. BUZZ will also feature all-wheel drive and a battery range of 372 miles (600 kilometers).Hide Caption 12 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsA classic Fiat 500 convertible — commonly known as the Cinquecento in Italy — sits in an alleyway in Paris, France. The model began production in Turin, Italy in 1957 and was discontinued in 1975. A modern version with a petrol engine was unveiled in Europe in 2007 and the US two years later. Hide Caption 13 of 14

    Photos: Plugged-in classicsIn 2017, Fiat launched the 500e, a fully electric version of the Fiat 500. Currently, the model is available exclusively for the US market. Though the car boasts 111 horsepower, its 84-mile driving range limits the 500e to mostly city driving. Hide Caption 14 of 14

    “That role is very important but it’s only one part, you also need people like us, businessmen, people that do things and execute their vision. It all helps find a big solution.”The 49-year-old remains chairman of Formula E but has stepped away from his role as CEO to turn his attention to Extreme E. The former has already put pressure on F1, while the latter looks destined to compete directly with events like the Dakar.”F1 is an amazing brand – the pinnacle of motorsport and I’m a great fan,” he added. “But I also think F1 will have to become electric one day.

      “The way to do that… I don’t know, maybe we’ll merge but something needs to happen because I don’t think F1 can live long-term without it.”And Extreme E is the future of off-road racing. Is that going to affect other rally championships, events like Dakar, I don’t know. I think there may also be a space for them in the future, I don’t know. What I do know, what I believe, what I hope is that there is a big, big space for Extreme E to showcase these locations and these problems.”

      Source: edition.cnn.com

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