93. The Race To Zero! Extreme Electrification with Nico Rosberg and Sara Price
This is the second episode in our Race To Zero series!
All evidence points to the tipping point for electrification of road transport, and the end of the internal combustion engine. But will this happen fast enough?
One of the key pillars of the Race to Zero is to accelerate the adoption of Zero Emissions Vehicles. Today, transport accounts for about 16% of global emissions, but is a much higher share of total emissions in industrialized countries. For example in the United States, transport accounts for nearly 30% of emissions and globally is a major source of the pollution causing one in ten deaths.
If we’re going to succeed in this, it’s going to take everyone. So how do we bring in new people to take action on climate change? And how do we reach and inspire a new generation to never purchase an internal combustion engine? We ask Nico Rosberg and Sara Price whether the innovative impact of Extreme E and its exciting partnership with citizen action campaign, Count Us In, can bring the power of sport and the excitement of motor racing, to inspire the public to apply pressure that spurs industry and government policy to accelerate the race to zero carbon.
Check out everything Extreme E!
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism, I’m Tom Rivett-Carnac.
Christiana Figueres: [00:00:25] I’m Christiana Figueres.
Paul Dickinson: [00:00:27] And I’m Paul Dickinson.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:28] This week we have a very special episode in our Race to Zero series, as we delve in to the high adrenaline, all electric world of Extreme E off road racing. We talk to driver Sara Price and Nico Rosberg and High Level Climate Action Champion Nigel Topping. Thanks for being here.
[00:01:00] Ok, so at the end of last year, we had the great opportunity to run a small series of episodes on the future of transport, and I thought that they were some of the most interesting episodes we done as Outrage + Optimism. And today we’re going to revisit that in a smaller way. We’re just going to talk about electrification of transportation, one of the hottest topics in the world right now in the response to climate change. And we’re going to come at it in a very exciting way. So a bit later in the episode, we’re going to delve specifically into Extreme E, which is this road electric racing of SUVs and remote locations. And we’ll delve into that. We’ll talk some of the some of the drivers. But first of all, let’s just kick off guys or girls as Paul corrects me.
Paul Dickinson: [00:01:41] Thank you. Appreciate it.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:44] I’m learning. I’m using it in normal speech.
Paul Dickinson: [00:01:46] That’s good. That’s very good.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:48] Sixteen percent of global emissions from transportation, much higher in industrial parts of the world. This is just an essential part of the journey to deal with the climate crisis. And I would argue it’s a piece that’s going pretty well. As we learnt at the end of last year, the electrification of the transport system is moving at pace for personal mobility. Different story for heavy transport. We can come to that a bit later. Would you agree with that assessment that it’s going well?
Christiana Figueres: [00:02:14] Well, yes. But before we go into everything that is happening, yes, it is a sizable chunk of global emissions as you have spoken, 16 percent, actually in Costa Rica, also 30 percent.
[00:02:28] It’s not just industrialized countries, but the other reason why it is really important to accelerate this transition of transport into not emitting transport is health reasons. We have been talking about this on the podcast for quite a while. There was yet another report done on the relationship between fossil fuel emissions and premature deaths. And that report puts those premature deaths at 8.7 million people a year. So yes, it is definitely for climate purposes, for let’s call it global pollution purposes, but it’s also for local pollution and for our lung pollution.
Paul Dickinson: [00:03:16] This is just such a huge thing. I don’t know if I can speak for either of you, too, but I look out my window and there are cars and then I go somewhere and there are cars and I go somewhere else and there are cars. And I go in an airplane, I look out the window in their cars and there are cars and there are cars and there are cars. There are so many cars.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:03:33] That’s really helpful, Paul.
Paul Dickinson: [00:03:34] I’m trying to point to the underlying intractability of the problem. But I was going to share with you just one little verse from a pop song, which I think just encapsulates the sort of craziness of this. Actually, there are thousands of cities in the world. But here David Byrne just talks about 350. And I think he’s talking about very large cities. But here’s where it goes.
Christiana Figueres: [00:03:59] Are you going to sing Paul? OK, here we go.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:04:06] Get some preparatory jingle from Clay.
Paul Dickinson: [00:04:08] Ok, here it comes.
Clay Carnill: [00:04:12] Distinguished listeners, the musical stylings of Paul Dickinson.
Paul Dickinson: [00:04:20] 350 cities in the world, just 30 teeth inside of our heads. These are the limits to our experience.
[00:04:31] It’s scary, but it’s alright and everything is finite.
[00:04:39] Now, the point behind the song and why I’ve decided. Is because I’m looking for an agent somewhere and there are thousands and thousands of listeners here.
[00:04:50] No, the point I wanted to make is have you any idea how much people spend on their cars, like your number one cost is your home and your number two cost is your car and cars and fuel are off the charts. Percentage of income, they demolish everything apart from housing. So we’ve got this big structural problem. Because the sheer expenditure on it, there’s also fortunes to be made in the speed of the transition. And I just wanted to kind of say that I’ve been so excited in putting this episode together with you all and our wonderful contributors, because you can see that an industrial revolution of epic scale is going to save those lives, Christiana, and provide zero emissions transport in the foreseeable future.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:05:40] The future has come forward very quickly and for a long time, range anxiety, we’ve talked about that on the podcast before. That’s been a real issue. Which you pointed out very cleverly, Paul a lack of electric charging station anxiety. I just recently moved I think I’ve mentioned this podcast and Devon and I had someone over here the other day to look at my home, and they said that for my energy use for about 4.5 Kilowatt solar system, plus a battery and an electric charging point, I would have no electric bills and never have to spend anything on refuelling a car. So that’s an upfront cost of some thousand pounds, of course. But the outcome is that I would have solar battery and the car sitting in the driveway that would be charged in a manner that if you can then get it financed, actually becomes cheaper and pays back over just a few years. That’s amazing, right?
Christiana Figueres: [00:06:33] That in a country that is not particularly well known for solar.
Paul Dickinson: [00:06:40] Yeah. Hundreds of solar panels sitting around the country.
Christiana Figueres: [00:06:45] I wonder what country on this podcast is much better known for sun.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:06:54] Even in rainy Devon, that’s possible. And it’s expensive. But if you look into the overall cost, it’s affordable. It pays back within a few years. That is a real indication how far this technology has come. And that’s why we’re moving so fast. In just the years since Paris, when still, let’s be honest, this was regarded basically as an impossibility, that we would make this transition quite as quickly as we have. We now have hundreds of cities around the world that have declared an end to the internal combustion engine, sometimes within five to ten years. We’ve got increasing numbers of jurisdiction’s countries and regions that are banning new sales of internal combustion engine, Norway by 2025, the UK by 2035, California by 2035, Canada by 2040. That’s just a few. And of course, also all of the companies that have now come forward and said that they see their future as electric or zero emissions vehicles. The number of companies have now pledged to only manufacture electric vehicles really within dates that are basically tomorrow in strategic planning terms. From a business perspective, General Motors 2035, Jaguar Land Rover 2035, Ford 2030, Volvo 2030. This is huge. We are going to see in the next 10 to 20 years a complete transformation of the transport system. It’s going to become almost completely electric for passenger vehicles. It’s going to clean up our air. This is fantastic. We’re going to live through it.
Christiana Figueres: [00:08:19] Live through it? We’re going to celebrate it. Now, you know what I think is so exciting about this is yes, I’m very excited to see more electric vehicles on the on the roads, but it’s actually going to mean less vehicles on the roads.
[00:08:40] And the other piece the other piece that I think is so exciting is how electricity storage is going to be integrated between homes or offices and buildings and cars, because you know what you’re going to have in common there between buildings, homes, offices, schools, whatever shopping centres and your vehicles is battery storage. And so all of a sudden, that artificial silo thinking that you need a separate battery for your car and separate battery that operates completely independently for your building, home or whatever, that’s going to fall away and you will see the exchange of electricity storage among all of these batteries and all of a sudden you will concede you can conceive of a city as a huge distributed electricity, battery and storage system for everything that is electrified.
[00:09:42] It’s absolutely amazing.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:09:44] Paul, tell us what we’re missing. Why isn’t it as good as Christiana and I say?
Paul Dickinson: [00:09:48] Let me tell you why it’s even better. OK, here’s the thing. Let me tell you a little bit of politics. I think I need a pessimist on this podcast.
[00:10:03] Can I have some more educational music? Because you did such a great job last time, Clay.
[00:10:08] Here’s the lesson in politics. Politics is not what it used to be. You used to vote every five years and then the government would run things. But it doesn’t work like that anymore.
[00:10:15] Now, what happens is you pull into a petrol station, for example, you put some petrol in your car and a little bit of the money goes to a company that may well be lobbying against laws to try to tax fossil fuels. Or you can buy a car, a petrol car or diesel car, and some of that money will go in to lobbying against electric vehicles, not always, but that’s how it has been for a long time. When you buy these electric vehicles, when you buy the renewable energy you’re talking about, Tom, the money is going to go into laws supporting more clean air, more electric charging points. We’ve got to recognize that whenever we buy the bad stuff, we’re also kind of voting with our money for the bad stuff. And when we buy the good stuff, we’re voting with our money for the good stuff. It’s not just commerce. It’s also linked to politics. And that’s why it’s double, triple, a thousand times good news.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:11:07] But they’re still very expensive, though, aren’t they? Of course. Electric vehicles.
Paul Dickinson: [00:11:11] Not, really. Is it not the case that the extraordinary link of China’s Saigao Motors and General Motors has got the Honang Mini priced at four thousand two hundred thirty dollars is that not brilliant?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:11:25] That’s amazing. OK, I stand corrected.
[00:11:34] Come on, Christiana, bring us back down to Earth.
Christiana Figueres: [00:11:38] Let’s bring this back down to earth now.
[00:11:40] The fact is that we do have quite a bit of homework here between what we’ve just described, which we will experience, but is not currently the reality. So electric charging stations and the whole network for that certainly needs to be invested in as well as we need to bring the price of batteries down for sure. But all of that is part of the let’s call it the infrastructure that is necessary for this new technology and is infrastructure that will be helpful for many different applications. That’s what I think is so interesting, because once you have what I think is called bio directional flow of electricity between storage points and electricity uses, then you really open up. So much more can be done.
[00:12:40] And so electrification as a modernization of our now pretty antique industrial capacity is is going to open up so many other possibilities is going to increase demand for electricity, increased demand for electricity.
[00:13:04] And of course, then we have to make sure that the supply, the increased supply of electricity is clean, as Tom is doing with his home, because if we increase demand of electricity and that electricity is actually coal based, then we have electrified, but we are polluting more. So let’s remember that there are many things still to be done and we have to clean the electricity electric system from coal for sure. We have to put out the infrastructure. We’ve spent decades, decades, decades in infrastructure of fuelling for the ICE car, for the internal combustion engine car, and we will have to invest into the infrastructure for electric and other non-polluting cars. But the fact is, you do have, as you Brits call petrol stations or in the United States, gas stations already most everywhere.
[00:14:00] So can they be retrofitted and could they be the point at which you charge your vehicle?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:14:08] Yeah, still own the property it’s right by the roads. You know that periodically. Space is absolutely perfect. Right? You just say there’s a lot of industry. That’s what they’re doing right now across the UK and across the way across the world.
[00:14:17] I do think as a smaller aside. I think we need to change something in our language, we’re calling them ICEs and we keep calling for the end of ICE, which is really unfortunate for people like us working on climate change. Of course, we mean the internal combustion engine, not the ice on the polar ice caps.
Paul Dickinson: [00:14:33] I hate all acronyms. I spent about half my day looking them up. Somebody saved themselves about a millionth of a second, putting down a four or five letter acronym. And I’ve spent about an hour on Google trying to work out what on earth they meant. And I nearly swore.
Christiana Figueres: [00:14:46] In addition, friends to the infrastructure challenges that we have for electrifying transport. Let’s also remember a huge challenge that is between us and happy electrification of transport, which is job loss, because these vehicles are being produced with much higher automation, if not robotization, they’re actually using less and less humans to produce these vehicles, which means that there is job loss in the car industry. So just last Sunday, Volkswagen announced that it would be looking to retire or semi retire up to 4000 of its staff in order to invest in the green tech.
[00:15:34] And they’re not the only ones.
[00:15:36] So, you know, just transition, which is something that we have discussed a lot on this podcast, really needs to be kept front and center. These four thousand people, OK, many some of them at least are perhaps retirement age and can go home and in peace.
[00:15:57] But there may also be start career or mid career people who all of a sudden found find themselves that they were working for an industry or for a technology that has been stranded or that is being stranded. And so very important to retrain these people, to give them the capacity, the skills, the knowledge, to be able then to move into an economy that is using much more advanced technologies and not leave them behind.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:16:29] Yeah, absolutely. And it’s terrible when you see that these transitions end up creating these knock on effects that are so painful for individuals. And collectively, the reality is, of course, if if there’s transition, costs us jobs and cost us livelihoods, we won’t get very far with it. Because actually the democratic system will snap back. It will prevent it from happening. So we need to be really aware. In this particular instance, I wasn’t clear whether the reason they were laying them off was because this new manufacturing required less people or because they needed to redirect capital.
Christiana Figueres: [00:17:05] I think it’s both.
[00:17:08] Because, just think about it. Those electric vehicles need way fewer parts, right? Way fewer parts.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:17:16] You have fewer parts of manufacturing. And the other bit in here, that will be a knock on effect and will probably be more painful because it might be more invisible, but it will happen everywhere. Is repairs. And auto maintenance shops all across the world. Electric vehicles will need less maintenance. They’ll need less repair because there’s fewer moving parts, as you’ve said, which will lead to short term job losses. Now, the economy changes all the time. We need to just make sure that as we go through that transformation, there is a pathway and a platform to skilling up to embracing the good new jobs that this transformation will bring. But the point you’re making is very important, Christiana, which is it’s going to be lumpy and it’s not going to work for everybody.
Paul Dickinson: [00:17:59] I would love us to talk more and more and more about these issues over the months ahead, because I actually think that they’re absolutely essential. We’ve got to get our hands on this social thing, because it’s critical to climate change, weirdly. But what I would say is I love a car that’s got less moving parts, electric motors are basically better than an internal combustion engine. So, let’s celebrate that. Yes. OK, there are job changes. But, we actually need a million armies of people to insulate, to put up that solar you are talking about, the charging stations, the fiber optics. We’ve got so much work that needs to be done in society and we just have to have the conviction that we can change and reorganize our economies so that we have simpler, better engines and a whole bunch of other stuff that needs doing. And by the way, COVID proves the magic money tree exists. Governments can fund this. Let’s just do it.
Christiana Figueres: [00:18:52] Paul that’s all very true at a macro level, right. At a macroeconomic level, that there will be more jobs in this new economy. But if you go down to the micro, if you go down to little old me who has been working at a traditional car manufacturing company and lives in the town of that company, and all of the sudden I lose my job and I have my whole family there and I can’t pick up and leave and go insulate your home halfway across the country. So it’s not as easy as all that and we shouldn’t paper over it. It’s definitely a challenge that needs to be faced square on.
Paul Dickinson: [00:19:34] You’re absolutely right, Christiana. But just my one request is when this is happening, let’s make sure we don’t blame climate change. It’s not climate change causing that. It’s technological change.
Christiana Figueres: [00:19:45] That’s true.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:19:47] Ok, so moving on, Christiana, you mentioned earlier about the technological innovation is going to be necessary to facilitate this transformation. And that’s kind of what’s so exciting about the conversations we’re bringing you today. Extreme E is right at the cutting edge of motor racing. It’s electric SUVs that go to remote parts of the world and race with no spectators, just with observation, with filming. And then, of course, millions of fans all over the world watching remotely. And there is an enormous amount. And we’re going to delve into this in the subsequent conversations about how they’re trying to change the world. We’re speaking to two people now who are directly associated with having created and still deeply involved here. One is Nico Rosberg, sustainability entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Rosberg X Racing. He’s a Formula F1, Formula One race car driver who has enjoyed a highly successful career in the sport. In 2016, Nico took the title of World Champion and subsequently retired from F1 as a driver. And since then he’s focused on investing in sustainability. And he’s the founder of the Green Tech Festival. He was also an early investor in Formula E and has launched a team Rosberg X Racing to compete in Extreme E rallies this year. We’re also speaking to Sara Price, driver of the Number 99 Hummer EV. She started her career in dirt bikes in motorcross at the age of nine, climbed the ranks in motorbike racing before securing a successful career as an off road desert racer and stuntwoman announced as the female driver for the Ganassi Extreme E team and it would be the first time she’s professionally raced electric vehicles. So exciting to speak to these two, who are coming at this issue of innovation and entrepreneurship around electric vehicles from such a different perspective from people we normally get to talk to in this space. And we were also joined by Nigel Topping in this conversation, our old friend, Climate Action Champion, leader of the Race to Zero. If there is such a thing, hilariously, Nigel, I think had to leave us partway through this interview. Is that correct?
Paul Dickinson: [00:21:45] What kind of person?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:21:46] I know. Just so appalling.
Paul Dickinson: [00:21:48] Let me just tell you one thing about Sara, by the way. She stole my dream, I’m sorry to say.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:21:53] Isn’t she, like, 30 years younger than you?
Paul Dickinson: [00:21:55] Never mind that. I essentially was just obsessed by motorcycles all through my childhood. And my great dream was at the age of 18, to be signed up for the Kawasaki team. Literally, that was my ultimate life goal.
[00:22:11] I wasn’t and she was.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:22:14] Can you ever forgive her?
Paul Dickinson: [00:22:15] Well, I wasn’t even in motor racing or in any way famous at all. And she worked her way up by being brilliant. But that doesn’t stop me being jealous. You understand?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:22:23] Oh, I understand.
Paul Dickinson: [00:22:25] Thank you.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:22:26] Right. Here we go with the conversation and we’ll be back after for more chat.
Christiana Figueres: [00:22:48] Nigel. So good to have you on again. Nigel, have you heard the little phrase life is short, start with dessert?
Nigel Topping: No.
Christiana Figueres: Well, it is something that I have done on occasion. Life is short, so I’ll have dessert first. And let me say, this is what we’re doing for you today, because although you are the supreme leader here of Race to Zero, we’re actually letting you start with dessert because you are such an enthusiast about the transformation in the transport system. And that doesn’t mean that your heart is not in all of the other sectors. I don’t want to give that impression.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Picking favourites.
Christiana Figueres: Even before you became our High Level Champion, your face just glows when you’re talking about the transformation in the transport sector and you just know so, so much about it and you’re so committed to it. So we’re letting you start with dessert first and start with this absolutely exciting, exciting episode of not just the normal transformation in the transport sector, but Extreme E. What can be more disruptive than Extreme E? So we would love to know from you, Nigel, how do you see Extreme E and this fantastic race that is being prepared? How do you see that contributing to the transformation in the transport sector?
Nigel Topping: [00:24:22] Well, thank you for dessert first. To all my colleagues working on decarbonizing steel or plastics, I do love them as well.
Paul Dickinson: They haven’t got racing drivers on the show and we have.
Nigel Topping: I think the reason it’s so important and exciting is that it’s a big chunk of the emissions. We know that also the combustion engine is like the iconic technology of the fossil fuel age and cars and motor racing and extreme motor racing.
Christiana Figueres: Exactly.
Nigel Topping: And they excite passion in so many people. So for people to realise that you can have exciting races with cool high tech vehicles in amazing environments which are zero emissions vehicles is a sort of thing that we need everybody to understand so they don’t think that tackling climate change is something which means they’ve got to wear a hair shirt and not drive fast cars and just generally kind of be sad and boring. So I think by making this real to everybody is what’s so exciting.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:25:43] So before you joined us, our good friend here, Paul Dickinson, told us that he gave up school when he was eight so he could study Kawasaki motorcycle. And I think that’s actually a good indication of what you’re talking about. That’s because that was exciting. It was the fastest, most interesting thing that was happening. Do you feel that the Race to Zero has got that? Would it make an eight year old Paul Dickinson give up school, or is this what Extreme E is here to do?
Nigel Topping: Well, I don’t think the Race to Zero would get many eight year olds, but just the metaphor of a race is something which engages a lot of people, just putting it out there. We say this is a race between countries, between cities, between businesses. I did a lot of work with Daimler and they committed to net zero 2039. Well, he’s been trumped by General Motors saying net zero 2035 and they’ve just been trumped by Volvo saying 2030. So there’s a nice little bit of competition amongst the CEOs of the car manufacturers. We’re competitive animals. So we sometimes say the Race to Zero is the only race that we have to win or lose together. But there is some competition within it as well. And that definitely attracts people.
Christiana Figueres: The to race to the top of decarbonisation. That’s the exciting thing.
Christiana Figueres: Paul is so excited, he can barely contain himself.
Paul Dickinson: [00:27:03] We have to get all the information out of you, Nigel, before we go to the real experts who drive the race cars. My question for you is, how is the race going between the petrol engine and the electric vehicle? Because it still seems like there’s not so many electric vehicles around and charging points. How’s the race going?
Nigel Topping: Ok, so now I get to do a little bit of my maths. So the only thing more exciting than Kawasaki was when I was eight was mathematics. So the important thing is we know that every time we’ve had a major technological disruption, it doesn’t happen linearly. Like five percent this year, five percent next year, 5 percent the year after. It always takes ages to get going and then suddenly it goes exponential. So that’s what’s happening with this race between the electric vehicle and the combustion vehicle is that suddenly it’s going exponential. So in Germany, just last week, they announced that the volume of electric, the percentage of electric vehicles in the market is three times what it was a year ago. So it’s like 21 percent. And if you add hybrids, it’s 37 percent. So what I would say is beware anyone who says EVs are only five percent of the market or they’re only 10 percent of the market. The question is how quickly is that doubled? Because that tends to be consistent. So they’ve gone from five to 10 in the year and probably going to go from 10 to 20 and then from 20 to 40 and 40 to 80, so then suddenly it’s all over. So that’s what’s happening. And this is why Extreme E is right in the middle of that, making everybody aware of what’s possible and getting them excited about it so that people want to be about. No teenager right now is ever going to buy a combustion engine vehicle.
Christiana Figueres: [00:28:34] In fact, they may not even buy a vehicle,
Nigel Topping: They might not even buy a vehicle.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:28:40] Nico Rosberg is on the line as well. Nico, do you agree with that? No teenager today will be an internal combustion engine?
Nico Rosberg: I wouldn’t see it that black and white, because there’s still there’s still the odd teenager who love the V10 Lamborghini at the moment out there.
Nigel Topping: No teenager can afford a V10 Lamborghini!
Paul Dickinson: I’m afraid some can!
[00:29:06] Then that’s Nico Rosberg, former Formula One driver and 2016 world champion, as Tom said earlier. And today, he’s a very successful clean tech entrepreneur. His latest venture, Rosberg Extreme Racing, a team in the new Extreme E championship who will race in five locations across 2021. So what is Extreme E? It’s a brand new motorsport series consisting of five rallies or X Prix, as they call them, taking place in locations that have already been degraded by climate change. Teams of two drivers, one male, one female, race in all electric SUV to draw attention to the vulnerability of the ecosystems around them, such as a glacier, a desert, a coastal area and the Amazon. Have a look in the show, notes for the links to learn more.
Nico Rosberg: [00:29:49] And especially now with the last couple of months where the first really awesome electric cars are coming out. Tesla, we’re seeing them with the Roadster. Then we’re seeing other car companies like Rimac. It’s really making electric cars cool. And I really want to play a role in that as well. And this is where Extreme E comes in as well on an SUV basis. Making SUV, electric cars, just absolutely awesome and thrilling to inspire the whole generation now, that’s coming up exactly that, to buy electric cars.
Paul Dickinson: [00:30:24] The sound you’re hearing is the engine noise that the electric SUVs, the Extreme E teams will be driving, recorded during actual test races. It’s a distinctive high pitched sound and very different from the engine roars we’ve become accustomed to. And it’s exciting to think this is the sound of high performance vehicles that future generations will come to consider the norm.
Christiana Figueres: [00:30:50] And Sara, how different is it for you as a race car driver? How different is it for you? Not the technical part, which we can talk about later, but just the context. How do you understand racing an internal combustion engine versus racing an electric?
Sara Price: So being a part of Extreme E is completely new for me, so being involved in the electric market is something new as well.
Sara Price: [00:31:30] I come from, they like to call us the wild, wild west of off road. We’re kind of a little bit behind the times when it comes to racing in the dirt.
Paul Dickinson: Roughnecks. They’re both exciting, but it’s a bit more kind of frontier.
Sara Price: Yeah. Yeah. It was funny. Ganassi Racing was like, we’re kind of not sure. You guys are like cowboys and cowgirls out there. So we’re going to get our head around that. Coming into this world it’s been awesome. It’s been eye opening. It’s been exhilarating to learn about the impact we’re going to make race these Extreme E electric vehicles and the people we’re going to be able to touch by doing so. So, yeah, it’s exciting.
Paul Dickinson: [00:32:15] How do you think that the sport itself, that Formula E has has done an incredible job of sort of showing the technical side. Extreme E is going to be like a chance to sort of see these vehicles in the world. But are there many of these sort of larger SUV type electric vehicles yet on the market?
Sara Price: Yeah, definitely. Hummer EV is going to be our OE for extremely program, and it is a super truck. It’s a large vehicle. It’s going to be on the electric platform and it has extreme off-road capabilities. So like it has even crab walk sideways and rocks. You can take it to the desert and you have technically basically a thousand horsepower and that’s unreal.
Paul Dickinson: [00:32:59] Its maximum torque is zero RPM I’ve been told, which is a little bit better than the petrol engine. What does OE mean?
Sara Price: Sorry, just the manufacturer.
Nigel Topping: Original equipment Paul.
Paul Dickinson: Got you.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:33:09] So can I ask you because I know Nigel, we don’t have you for a very long time, but you’re sort of like sitting in the middle of this process where you’re trying to get the whole world to focus on this rapidly emerging transformation in the transport sector and others. Here you have this incredibly high profile race that’s going to be going around the world. What do you hope that this will deliver this year in 2021, as we try to focus the world’s attention? Then we’re going to delve into kind of the specifics of what Extreme E is and how people can participate.
Nigel Topping: First of all, I hope that it will. It will attract attention to the fact that this is a race that we can win.
Christiana Figueres: We can all win.
Nigel Topping: That we can all win.
Nigel Topping: [00:33:57] By the way, very excited that we’ve got a little Race to Zero logo and all the Extreme E uniform. So I was really excited when I saw that. So they’re just bringing people’s attention to this is a race we can win that actually we have amazing innovators, right? We sent engineers a challenge. They sold us. Drive a car in the desert or icecap at high speed, with electric force only, we can solve that. I think we need to trust our engineers a lot more. And then the other thing is to use that as a platform with the amazing reach that Extreme E’s got with people like Nico and Sara to reach millions of people and through the Count Us In partnership, every individual can take actions which contribute to the Race to Zero, to contribute to the transformation that we need. So I think this is an amazing opportunity to really take all of the work that we’ve all been doing from the sort of rather geeky back rooms out into the world of ordinary sports fans.
Christiana Figueres: And I have a question for you or maybe for Nico or for both of you, which is, Formula E has always been arguing that that is such a good platform for technical innovation that is created, designed and developed for the race, but that then gets mainstreamed into the street cars or in the street vehicles. And I’ve seen this. And I’m sure Nico has witnesses, Sara as well. What pieces can you identify or can you that are actually going to be disruptive, that have been designed and executed from Extreme E, that will then get mainstreamed into the SUVs of the hopefully very near future?
Nico Rosberg: [00:35:49] Well, a lot of it is in the electric motor where if I take some examples for the German car manufacturers like Audi and Mercedes who are in Formula E, there are some parts of their electric motors that are now in the road cars, which I just ordered one for home, actually. I ordered an Audi E-tron. So there are some parts of the motor in my Audi E-tron which I’m going to be driving my kids to school in, which have come about as a result of the development of the electric motor in Formula E. And so this is so beautiful when motorsport can play such a powerful role in race to road transfer of technology where we all get to benefit from this development race eventually. And that’s fantastic. And that’s what I love so much about Extreme E and Formula E.
Christiana Figueres: Do you do you think Extreme E will help accelerate that technological development for SUVs?
Nico Rosberg: [00:36:38] Absolutely. So Extreme E will take up that role more and more, of course, in the beginning. You can’t allow yourself as a championship to open up technical development too much, because then for me as a team owner, it just becomes way too expensive.
Christiana Figueres: And you start getting nervous, probably.
Nico Rosberg: Exactly. So at the moment, they have to keep it under control and really limit stuff. But as the championship grows, then you can start to open up the tech development as well. But in the beginning, obviously, with the Extreme E, there’s also this other dimension where the sport was built on a social purpose. And it’s the first time I think that a sport has been built on a social purpose. I mean, that’s the reason for its existence. And that is so beautiful I find and so powerful and this is why I love being a part of this. And then also the sports wants to be a role model as well. So let me give an example. There’s a partnership with a fuel cell generator company called EFC Energy, and they’re going to be powering all of our electric race cars in the whole paddock and everything on in the glacier in Greenland using hydrogen. So it’s going to be totally emission free using these generators. So this is this is really out as a sport as well. We want to pioneer and we want to be a role model in that sense. So there’s so many amazing aspects with this Extreme E.
Christiana Figueres: [00:37:57] And before, Nigel, I think we have to let you go, but I would like to ask you, Nigel, what magical wand did you use to make sure that Extreme E has its first race in 2021 just before COP twenty six? How did you manage that?
Nigel Topping: So much serendipity. Really, really glad. And I’m sorry I’ve got to go now, but I’m really thrilled Nico mentioned it’s the first time anyone’s designed a program for social purpose.
Christiana Figueres: Exactly.
Nigel Topping: And I heard, Nico, that you were using low carbon diesel for the generators. But that means that my notes are already out of date because you’ve already leapfrogged that idea to go to a fuel cell generator. I know you’re doing really cool stuff with the shipping and with the spectator platforms. I think it’s beyond the vehicle, the innovation. It’s the whole sport. And I think that’s really exciting.
Nico Rosberg: [00:38:56] So the low carbon diesel, Nigel, comes in with the ship. So two thirds of the emissions that normally a championship like this would emit. The championship has bought a ship, which is called the Santillana, and it’s exactly the same ship as Greenpeace use. And the whole paddock is on this ship using a low carbon diesel and the most efficient motors in the world has had a multi-million pound renovation to the whole engine system. And the whole paddock is on the ship and travelling from race to race altogether. And so and then, of course, with carbon offsetting, we’re going to be climate neutral as a championship.
Nigel Topping: Just another example of how fast technology changes. In 2019, Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipping company said they’ll be net zero by 2050 and have the first zero carbon boats on the water in 2030. That’s quite a long lead time. Got to design it, build it. But zero carbon. Probably using ammonia, which is a hydrogen carrier. They’ve just a few weeks ago said instead of 2030, the first ship will be on the water in 2023. So I reckon by 2023, 2024 you’ll be using an ammonia powered ship that would be zero carbon.
Nigel Topping: So there you go. Well, I’ll leave you to it. So I look forward to hearing more from Sara and Nico on the episode when it comes out.
Nico Rosberg: [00:40:26] Nigel what’s more important than speaking to us?
Nigel Topping: Nothing is more important, but I’ve just got a diary that’s, you know,
Christiana Figueres: Nothing is more fun.
Nigel Topping: Nothing more fun, that’s for sure.
Christiana Figueres: [00:40:40] Well, guys, so just so that we don’t lose sight of it, the other thing that is just amazing about this Extreme E, as Nico has already said, it was started from a social purpose, social environmental purpose. But hello, it is also the first race that is designed with gender parity. Hello, how cool is that? And so I would really love to hear from Sara. This must be a very different experience for you, Sara, because if I am not totally missing my memory, one of the very difficult criticisms that Formula One has had and to a certain extent Formula E also, is that the presence of women in this motor sport was at some point and thank God we’re getting out of it, but is at some point it was limited to the grid girls. Is that the right name?
Nico Rosberg: Yes, that’s right.
Christiana Figueres: Thank you. It was limited to the grid girls, which is such a terrible insult to women that you put, gorgeous women as they are, but that you stand them up there, looking gorgeous in front of these fantastic cars. And that was it. So Formula E has really been trying to to improve on that. But Extreme E starts by design, putting in gender parity by making it a requisite that every team, every vehicle has to have two drivers, one of each gender, and they have to swap over. How cool is that, Sara?
Sara Price: [00:42:22] It’s incredible. It gives women the opportunity to be the forefront for the first time and raise a lot of talents like Nico, you have team owners that have so much experience in these worlds that some of these women would have never gotten a chance to work with and Extreme E being able to have a female and a male driver. I think a lot of the female racers that are a part of the series already, you talk to them and they don’t consider themselves just a female driver or the female driver, they’re a racer. When the helmet goes on, it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male. We’re both there to do the same thing. And that’s to do the best we can and to work hard and let it show on the race course.
Christiana Figueres: [00:43:05] Sara, just give us a little bit of a sense of your story. How did you get to motor racing? Because it’s a journey, right? First motor racing, then you got to Extreme E. And then you were beginning to insert yourself into this whole climate conversation. Did you foresee that you would have that journey? And what does that journey look like for you?
Sara Price: [00:43:28] If you would have asked me five years ago if this would be where I’m sitting today? No. But it has definitely been a journey. I started racing motocross on my Kawasakis at eight years old, my dad actually raced off road cars. My brother raced dirt bikes. And so I followed in their footsteps and little did my parents know, I was kind of the daredevil and just never give up attitude and just kept climbing the ranks. I turned professional at 16 years old on the motorcycle and then a started a business and I started racing cars and just one thing led to another and being usually one of the only females against all the males. And it was something different. And you have the first judgment I think, when you show up to a track, you have the parents and you have the other the other males you’re racing against. And they’re like, oh, who’s the girl? But then they start realizing, oh, crap, it’s not just the girl, Sara’s here. We got to bring our A game. You earn that respect after a while.
And it’s pretty awesome to see and especially in off road racing, there’s still not as many females as I would like to see, but being able to be at the forefront of that and racing a trophy truck, winning the first ever time at a trophy-truck spec championship. It was a big deal for the off road industry. And considering we’re kind of behind the times in that industry. So it’s been awesome. I appreciate Extreme E going to bat for us and really putting something out there, because that’s a risky thing for them to be thinking about and for them to actually follow through with. And it’s awesome.
Christiana Figueres: [00:45:30] Why is it risky?
Sara Price: I think the backlash, the media, that’s something that’s never been done before. And I think they have to stand for it. And I think it’s incredible because there’s so many females out there that might have the talent like the top male racers in this world. But they don’t get the opportunity because of being a female, because they’re not looked at first. And this is now giving them the chance.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I’m curious to know, how did you know? Because obviously, you started out in a very different area. You said you describe this journey and I know you have a big following of people who followed your career in other areas and now you’re doing things like talking about climate change, competing in Extreme E. How is your fan base responding to that evolution in your career and what you talk about?
Sara Price: Going to electric and racing electric, it’s something very new to our world over here in the West Coast and in offroad world. They’re used to big V8s, very loud engines, just rummage through the terrain and just go as fast as you can, pedal to the metal kind of thing. And so it’s had a very positive impact. I think a lot of people are like, wow, you’re getting to race vehicles that look like the cars that were racing down in the deserts and wait, they’re electric? This is crazy, what is it? And they’re asking questions, getting more involved. They’re realizing that this is something that’s cool. It’s not just, OK, we’re not just these big gasoline engines now. We’re going over to doing SUVs door to door racing like it doesn’t get more exciting than that to me, and people are asking questions. And I think that’s what’s most important.
Paul Dickinson: [00:47:10] Well, it is a dinosaur technology, the internal combustion engine. Actually, petrol is made out of dinosaurs. It’s not like a metaphor, it really is made out of dinosaurs. So it’s great that you’re moving forward with this fantastic electric. Can I ask about this just extraordinary thing? And I guess this is a question for both of you. Nico and Sara. You’re combining motorsport, off-road motor sport with highlighting how vulnerable some parts of the world are to climate change. I’ve heard it said that you’re kind of combining race cars with a David Attenborough documentary. This has never been done before. You’re braking completely, new ground. It’s so exciting. And I just wonder how the idea came about and how you feel about it and what you’re looking forward to.
Nico Rosberg: [00:47:55] And that’s what I’m very excited about as well. If you’re looking at Netflix recently, there’s a lot of Blue Planet documentaries which are so beautiful. And here now we’re taking the angle of bringing together motorsports, the blue planet and taking the motor sports to where the earth is into extreme locations where the earth has already been severely damaged by and affected by climate change. Let me take an example of Senegal, where they’re facing huge droughts. And so we’re going to be racing there with the purpose to, first of all, raise a lot of awareness for what’s happening in those areas. But secondly, also as a championship with our legacy program to support local initiatives. But also from my team point of view, we have our own driven by purpose campaign, where we’re also going to be supporting local initiatives really heavily. And in Senegal, for example, we have a big partnership with the Prince Albert II Monaco Foundation. They’re doing a lot of work there and we’re going to be supporting them on site, on the ground to really accelerate their progress.
Paul Dickinson: [00:48:55] It’s extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary, and so where did the idea come from? Whose idea was it? Do you know the genesis of it?
Nico Rosberg: It’s the founder Alejandro Agag. He founded Formula E. And this is the next iteration of his vision of really putting purpose into sports.
Paul Dickinson: That’s good, purpose into sports. You know we had the Olympics in the U.K. in 2012 and the slogan was ‘inspiring a generation’. And I couldn’t help thinking, could you be more specific? Whereas you’ve really come down and said inspiring a generation to consider the impacts of climate change. That’s amazing.
Christiana Figueres: [00:49:30] Alejandro has been working on this for years, right, Nico? For years. And in the beginning it was just sort of a dream that he had.
And he’s been working on this assiduously, on and on and on until he got support, for example, of Nico as a team owner of fantastic drivers like Sara. And it wasn’t easy because as we’ve already said, it is breaking many grounds. Many things are completely new, completely disruptive. So it wasn’t an easy journey for Alejandro. But honestly, kudos to Alejandro Agag for going, first of all from Formula One to Formula E and then to Extreme E.
Paul Dickinson: Indeed, quite a journey.
Christiana Figueres: [00:50:27] So Sara and Nico, we host this podcast once a week, and we always ask our guests how they feel about what they’re seeing in the future. There is there is a spectrum between outraged about the fact that we’re so late on climate change and there’s optimism because we see so many things happening. So we would love to hear from both of you, if that is a spectrum, how do you feel about the race itself and how do you feel about our progress on climate change? Are you more on the outrage side or more on the optimistic side?
Sara Price: [00:51:09] I think on my side of things, it’s important, it’s something that the world is evolving and we’ve got to take care of it, we’ve got to take care of our planet for generations to come. And there’s obviously very dangerous things happening to the planet today. And we are in control of that. And we can make a difference by doing the littlest things on our daily lives that we can spread the news and hopefully encourage others to do the same. And little by little, if we have a couple million of us doing it, then it just keeps snowballing and ends up helping each other in the end. And I think it’s very important to get that message out and having Extreme E to do that, something cool and radical that’s bringing this new highlight to people who most likely probably wouldn’t watch racing in any form. And now they’re going to be watching it because they’re like, maybe we’re the avid hikers that have an electric vehicle now or they have a Prius or something, and now they’re going to want to race cars. We’re going to have people that are going to explore this whole new industry in a different highlight because they’re looking at us racing. And I just think it’s a it’s an awesome tool to be able to do something great for the world.
Christiana Figueres: Yay. Nico, what do you think?
Nico Rosberg: Yes, so for my part, I’m kind of I go to and from every single day, feeling-wise. Outrage, optimism, outrage, optimist. It really depends. On the big picture, though I would probably I would certainly be a Stubborn Optimist as Christiana would love to hear.
Christiana Figueres: [00:52:45] Sara we want you to be a Stubborn Optimist too.
Sara Price: Working on it.
Nico Rosberg: [00:52:56] But there are the powerful movements that are really kicking off now in the investment world in the largest organizations in the world. I mean, the Googles and co, we were just hearing before how Daimler and the car manufacturers are battling themselves to go carbon neutral, chipping five years of each other every single time for new announcement. And I think that all of that together makes me quite optimistic in general. Then we’ve got the green deal and everything where, again, Count Us In is a partner with. So I’m very optimistic.
Christiana Figueres: Yay! Fantastic. Well, it is so delightful to have you both. I was so excited about the race, so excited. It captures the imagination. And we know that there’s going to be amazing visuals because you’re not taking any audience to any of these places. But everything is going to be captured and there are going to be just amazing videos out of this race. So yet another way in which the races is lowering its footprint. Thank you so much, Nico. Thank you, Sara, for joining us here. And we will be watching.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:54:13]Thanks for joining us.
Paul Dickinson: Indeed. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:54:29] So how interesting to get a chance to speak with people involved in this issue that we have been so immersed in from such a different perspective. And they came to it from such a different perspective. Sara in particular, how fascinating that she grew up basically trying to still Paul Dickinson’s dream and successfully.
Paul Dickinson: [00:54:48] Successfully, yes.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:54:50] But as a result came round to the the interest and the excitement of electric vehicles and could end up being an amazing champion and a role model for so many. So what do you guys leave that conversation with?
Christiana Figueres: [00:55:00] Well I don’t know why I’m pushing back on all of this excitement today, but I think we should also recognize that there is likely to be criticism about putting vehicles on these ecosystems.
[00:55:19] And they have been, Extreme E and Formula E, the parent company have been very careful to choose ecosystems that have been degraded where there is not a huge additional negative impact.
[00:55:40] But honestly, that’s going to be hard to communicate.
[00:55:44] And when you see these vehicles racing in these ecosystems, in these five different ecosystems, I can only imagine how many people who are rightfully concerned about impact on these environments will be pretty appalled about it. So, you know the importance of communication. I can totally see why they’re doing this. And it is going to make a huge impact. It’s going to be very exciting when you can see this on your screen. But the communication around this and the education is absolutely critical. And I know that they know that. And they’re putting a lot of emphasis into this communication, not just being snazzy and exciting and adrenaline, but really taking advantage to explain the science and explain what is happening in these ecosystems.
[00:56:39] Not an easy challenge.
Paul Dickinson: [00:56:42] I really admire them for it, though. I’ve got to say, they’re pretty clear here. They’re talking about climate change and they’re linking it all. They’re making electric SUVs seem exciting, which is important in terms of changing people’s purchasing habits. But also critically, they’re driving people towards the Count Us In campaign. And I’ve said before, I’m involved with a little part of that, the geeky 0, which is a way you can calculate, your electric cars’ footprint versus a petrol car’s footprint and work out really what the reductions are like over time. And I love the idea that they’re focusing on lifestyle choices and how you can make them personally. So in a sense, there’s the people that are competing right in the cars, but then you’re competing at home watching it. You’re kind of part of a big movement in sport towards focusing on how we individually can also become champions in the carbon battle.
Christiana Figueres: [00:57:31] Good point, Paul.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:57:33] It is a good point. And my first reaction to it, actually, and I’m sure this would be true of many people concerned about climate change. When I learned about Extreme E and what they were going to do, racing these vehicles on the coast in Senegal, across Greenland, in the rainforest in Brazil, in Patagonia. I was quite appalled. I thought, oh, my God, what a terrible message that sends that actually we’re just going to go and drive across these pristine ecosystems, but then I learned a bit more about it. And I thought, well, actually, what they’re doing is they’re trying to bring a completely different audience into those environments to explain a bit more as they’ve got their attention and what they are to demonstrate that these are super exciting electric vehicles. They’ve really gone the extra mile to think about how do they get the cars there? They’ve done what they can to make the ship as environmentally conscious as possible. They’ve really tried to do it well. And it just struck me, I just think right now, anything that reaches new people and helps them understand that this is an exciting transformation. There’s enormous risk, but there’s great opportunity. And it can be an exciting world that we all want to be part of. We should celebrate and we should welcome, even if it’s not how we would necessarily have thought to do things, because there’s something about this which does feel uncomfortable for many of us, but it might be transformative. So I’m glad they’re doing it.
Christiana Figueres: [00:58:51] So here’s a question: How do you think that we’re going to reach more people who have never thought about climate change? Through something like Extreme E or through a two hundred and fifty seven scientific report written in seven languages?
Paul Dickinson: [00:59:08] I’ve read a few assessment reports, from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:59:13] Have you ever watched much motorsport? You have, of course.
Paul Dickinson: [00:59:15] Yeah, I didn’t want to be signed up when I was 18, to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, let me put it that way.
Christiana Figueres: [00:59:22] So I have to tell you, I’m feeling a little bit sad after this exciting conversation because up until just a few days ago, every time I got into my hybrid car, I was feeling so happy about it and now it’s like, oh, darn, it’s only a hybrid. I want a full electric.
Paul Dickinson: [00:59:43] Christiana your car is not half empty. It is half full. And we’ve had some conversations about some aspects of Extreme E, are a little bit difficult to explain to the public. But, Sara was a delightful person, is a delightful person, even though she stole my childhood dream. Nico Rosberg is so unbelievably famous. There’s like 50 billion, trillion references to him on Google and getting someone like him and Sara involved in climate change can only be good for the moment because it’s going to bring in hundreds of thousands, maybe millions and millions of new people. And that fills me with optimism, if I may say so.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [01:00:16] Love it, awesome. OK, so thanks for joining us this week. This has been a fantastic exploration into E-mobility. The future of electric vehicles. We’ll be back with a regular episode next week and on with the Race to Zero all the way to Glasgow at the end of the year. Thank you for being with us this week. We’ve really enjoyed another of these episodes and we’ll see you next week.
Clay Carnill: [01:00:51] So there you go, another episode of Outrage + Optimism from our Race to Zero series. This is episode two. If you have not heard the first episode, you should. It’s right there exclusively on every podcast player you can go check it out. It’s just a couple of episodes back and it’s an investigative episode I hope you enjoy. Outrage + optimism is a Global Optimism production. Our executive producer is Sharon Johnson, and this episode was produced by the big DC, Daniel Curtis and Clay Carnill. That’s me. So you guys digging this music? Are you into it? You heard it on the last Race to Zero episode. It’s here now. You’re feeling pumped, starting to feel the groove? Yes. OK, so you hear from us every week. So it’s nice to get a special appearance from our good friend, High Level Climate Champion, Nigel Topping. Thanks, Nigel, for stopping by. And thank you to our guests this week, Nico Rosberg and Sara Price, Nico and Sara, the next time that I see you, I want a ride in that Extreme E Odyssey 21. I don’t know how much I have to beg you, but I want a ride. I really do.
[01:02:08] So, listeners, that’s the name of the car build that the Extreme E racers will be driving. And as mentioned earlier by Paul, I’ve got links in the show, notes for you to everything Extreme E so go check it out. Global Optimism is Sara Law, Katie Bradford, Lara Richardson, Marina Mansilla Hermann, Sophie McDonald, Freya Newman, Sarah Thomas, Sue Reid and Jon Ward. And our hosts are Christiana Figueres, Paul Dickinson and Tom Rivett-Carnac, OK, if you’re loving this series, it means the world to us if you leave us a rating and review on Apple podcasts and be sure to find us on social media @GlobalOptimism this Friday, March 19th, our social media channels are being taken over by Marina Guião. She is a Fridays For Future activist and coordinator for Climate Live Brazil. We couldn’t be more excited to pass the mic over to her on our social media channels this Friday. You’ll see Marina on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram on Friday. But you know what? Get a head start. Check the show notes. I’ve got links to her social media as well.
[01:03:15] That is a wrap on this episode. But hey, great news. We have a bonus episode coming out tomorrow. We’ll be hearing from Thomas Hale about the origin and state of net zero. And we’ll be going through some terms that you know, but maybe you don’t know as well. Carbon neutral, carbon negative, carbon positive, Paris aligned. What does it all mean? Dr. Thomas Hale has the answers. He’s really amazing at explaining things. So hit subscribe. We’ll see you then.