Copenhagen applied to be one of the first cities to host a Formula E race, it has emerged, according to a letter from Pia Allerslev, the city’s culture Mayor, to FEH boss Alejandro Agag. The document expresses a “strong interest” in participating in the first season of the new electric racing series, has was published on Twitter by Caroline Reid, a journalist who focuses on the business aspect of motorsport.
The case put forward by Allerslev is simple: Copenhagen is well known for its green transport solutions, ostensibly making it a good fit for Formula E. But the communiqué inadvertently underlines something else about the city’s travel habits that make it far less appealing to the sport.
“Copenhagen airport has been voted the best airport in Europe several times,” the letter says. “A fixed link connects us to Sweden…Our metro – the youngest and most modern in Europe – serves the city well in combination with other parts of our high standard public transport.”
Spot the problem? The Danish city has a very different approach to urban mobility than that promoted by Formula E: it’s one that doesn’t begin with the car, electric or otherwise.
Last year, just 179,000 new cars were registered in the country, with sales of electric vehicles in the low hundreds. That lags far behind other Formula E European host countries – in 2013, the UK shifted 2.2million cars and Germany, 2.9million. (Monaco is…well, Monaco.)
The simple fact is that Denmark has deliberately – and successfully – created a culture where city transport revolves around bicycles and public transport. Underpinning this strategy is the eye-watering tax on new cars: up to 180% of the price tag.
The reasons behind this approach are many and varied, but all are equally environmentally valid – if not more so – than the aims of the electric car. Bicycles, for example, require very little road and parking space, consume negligible amounts of carbon in manufacture, require no fossil fuels to run and keep users fit and healthy.
Car ownership is on the rise in Denmark, however, and significant tax breaks allied to the falling price tags and increased desirability of electric city cars may make EVs more palatable to the country’s residents in the future.
For now, it’s difficult to see much of a market for selling new electric cars in Denmark. That may be the real reason why Formula E, which is designed to champion EV ownership (and which is backed by Renault, which not coincidentally sells EVs), is not visiting the home of the Vikings in its inaugural season.