Gambling on electric racing

Mandalay Bay casion courtesy Mandalay Bay cropped

Sin City will play host later today to something surprisingly wholesome. The completed Spark Renault racing car will make its public debut along the famed Las Vegas Strip, with Lucas di Grassi at the wheel.  

While the car was unveiled for the first time at the Frankfurt motor show last September to much fanfare, that vehicle was merely a rolling shell devoid of its powertrain and electronics systems. Today’s event will be the first time that the sleek silver machine will motor around under its own power in public, following successful testing in France over the past few weeks. The car will be paraded outside the 44-storey Mandalay Bay hotel.

Vegas may seem an odd place to show off a series which is selling itself on a strong environmental and financial conscience. After all, the Nevada city has earned its reputation as a hotbed of hedonism, from its lavish use of water and power amidst the dryness of the surrounding desert to its myriads of strip clubs, backbone of casinos and garish skyline drowning in neon lights.    

However, Vegas is also one of the top US destinations for conferences, conventions and business meetings. The Spark Renault outing coincides with the International CES, a four-day technology expo put on by the US Consumer Electronics Association. Since 1967, the event has introduced ground-breaking new technologies, such as VCR in 1970, high definition TV in 1998, Microsoft’s Xbox in 2001 and Blu-Ray in 2003.

After its demonstration run during today’s press day (at 3.15pm local time), Formula E will be exhibiting at the show along with technology partner Qualcomm, which is planning to create an immersive spectator experience at each race with augmented reality and to showcase its wireless charging systems, beginning with the safety cars and eventually encompassing the race cars themselves.

And the setting plays to Formula E’s desire to change perceptions of electric cars. The sport is determined to bring glitz and glamour to battery-powered cars, and the inclusion of Hollywood A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio and billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson as Formula E team owners lines up well with a city known worldwide for its culture of entertainment. The show itself is no stranger to celebrity guests – last year’s event even featured a keynote speech by former US president Bill Clinton.

With $100million reportedly invested in Formula E so far, we hope that Formula E’s trip to Las Vegas is symbolic of a calculated but brave gamble to change the way the world views EVs and motor racing – and not of the city’s less laudable penchant for fast marriages and faster annulments.

Qualcomm and Formula E will be sharing booth 8252, Central Hall.

Mandalay Bay Hotel courtesy onfeature.com

Images courtesy of Mandalay Bay and OnFeature.com.

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