Electric dream: consortium still pushing to bring Formula E to Auckland
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A consortium including ASB Classic tennis tournament director Karl Budge is angling to bring "Formula E" racing to Auckland.
If they succeed, it will see all-electric cars flying around a downtown CBD circuit at speeds of up to 220km per hour. Budge says rights will cost $14 million a year for five years. He's angling for central and local government to chip in.
He and consortium partner Craig Cotton (head of the NZ Innovation Council) commissioned a study by SMG YouGov that says the race would bring in $150m a year.
"The GST alone would cover costs," Budge says.
Formula E was founded in 2014 and features teams backed by Audi, BMW, Citröen, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, ABB, DHL, Bosch and Michelin, among others.
The ABB FIA Formula E Championship, as it's officially known, is sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the same body that governs Formula 1 and the World Rally Champions.
Race venues in the current Formula E calendar include the likes of New York, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Berlin, Mexico City and Santiago.
The BBC will screen all races in the 2018/2019 Formula E championship. TV3 and TVNZ's Duke have both screen races here. Formula E's financial backers include former F1 world champion Nico Rosberg.
The Auckland "E-Prix" is slated for a late 2019 or early 2020 date. Options for the venue are still being evaluated. However, a downtown site is favoured.
Budge and Cotton say with a race as soon as November 2019, they don't have time to go through the usual approvals process with MBIE.
The pair have enlisted Green Party co-leader and associate transport minister James Shaw as an advocate. They say Shaw is taking a proposal to cabinet to speed things up.
Budge says it's now or never. If Auckland Council and central government don't fund a bid for racing from 2019, rights will become too expensive.
Formula E already has a strong Kiwi flavour, with New Zealand's Mitch Evans one of the drivers for the factory Jaguar team, and a variety of Kiwi-developed technology featured in the championship.
The consortium run by Budge and Cotton already has a number of corporate backers, who have chipped in seed funding. They include Vector, Sky City's New Zealand International Convention Centre, AUT and Drive Electric.
It will likely have its work cut out. In 2010, the V8 Supercars relocated from Auckland to Hamilton after coping council flak over traffic congestion that would be caused by street closures for a race around the city centre.
Cotton says it will be a shorter course - 2.3km as opposed to the V8 Supercars' mooted 4km.
He says the quiet nature of electric cars will also help with resource consent.
Budge says if part of metropolitan Paris can be closed for four days to accommodate a Formula E race, Auckland should be able to do the same.
Budge and Cotton say it's not just about the thrill of motorsport. The pair argue Formula E racing in New Zealand would help spur clean energy research and electric vehicle adoption as the government targets a carbon neutral economy by 2050.
Formula E does have its critics, however.
In a comment piece for the Herald, Bob McMurray noted complaints that silent-running electric cars "don't deliver the spectacle" of the screaming Formula One.
Cotton says it's wrong to compare Formula E to Formula 1.
Formula E is more of an environmental event under the guise of motorsport, he says.
Races attract a fifty-fifty male/female audience, and people appreciate they can hold a conversation while a race is on.
He says Formula E races are surrounded by "e-villages" that showcase clean energy products.
The championship also includes a "ghost racing" feature that allows views to join a virtual race that tracks that actual race via their Xbox or PlayStation.
- NZ Herald