Earth Mission: Cupra and Extreme E

Of course, you could always just keep going in circles. Or you can think into the future and take a radically different approach – like the new Extreme E off-road racing series.
Text Jana Doe
Photo Presse

“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.” This quote from Albert Einstein dates back to 1946, but rarely has it seemed more pertinent than it does today. And that is probably the reason why people pay attention when something truly novel happens, when a rethink takes place, or – as is the case here – when nature and technology interact. How it all began? In late 2018, a man by the name of Alejandro Agag met with his friend Gil de Ferran for breakfast – and the two hit upon a pretty good idea that would combine adventure and excitement with an awareness for the impact of climate change. More precisely: a racing series with electric cars competing against each other in some of the remotest places on the planet.

Their idea has now taken shape. This year sees the start of the first season of Extreme E, with ten teams and five unusual venues. The racing series is based on three fundamental ideas: electrification, sustainability and equality.

ramp #53

Paradise is Half as Nice

mehr aus dieser Ausgabe

Cupra is the only European automaker to have entered the racing series. Though perhaps that’s not entirely fair to say. It is the only one for the time being. But someone always has to be first.

As far as electrification is concerned, the series vehicle for the 2021 Extreme E is an electric SUV by the name of Odyssey 21. Drivers will race this standard car for the first two seasons, with in-house developments possible in the future. The Odyssey 21 features a battery-electric powertrain with 550 hp and a torque of 920 Nm capable of accelerating the SUV from zero to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds with a top speed of 200 km/h. The car can also tackle gradients of up to 130 percent. The race teams will not be allowed to make any changes to the Odyssey 21 except for modifying the bodywork and customizing the design.

The Odyssey 21 features a battery-­electric powertrain with 550 hp and a torque of 920 Nm capable of accelerating the SUV from zero to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds with a top speed of 200 km/h. The car can also tackle gradients of up to 130 percent.


As for sustainability, the series plans to go climate-neutral by the end of the first season. This is one of the reasons why Extreme E uses a ship, the RMS St Helena, as a floating paddock and to transport the race cars and all equipment to the venues. A former Royal Mail Ship, the St Helena has been extensively retrofitted and refurbished for the event, with the engine completely overhauled to reduce emissions. A team of four scientists will be on board in an advisory capacity to help Extreme E contribute to the restoration of damaged ecosystems through local environmental initiatives at all five racing locations. The Extreme E venues are: the desert of Saudi Arabia, to raise awareness for increasing dryness and drought; the Atlantic coast of Senegal, to address the issue of plastic waste and rising sea levels; the Patagonia region of Argentina, to call attention to the retreat of glaciers; the Greenland Arctic, to highlight the shrinking polar ice caps; and the Amazon region in Brazil, to focus on the destruction of the rainforest.

1/4 The first stop of the Extreme E takes us to Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia on April 3, to the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. The aim of this stage is to draw attention to increasing desertification and drought and the threat of water shortages. Then it’s off to the Atlantic Coast of Senegal on May 29, to Lac Rose, to draw attention to the state of the oceans. In August, the third race will be held in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to highlight the melting polar ice caps. The penultimate stage of the series will take place in autumn in the Brazilian state of Pará to promote the protection of the Amazon rainforest. And finally, in winter, the event heads to Tierra del Fuego to address the issue of glacial retreat. Credit: iStock / Alamy Stock Photo / Shutterstock
2/4 The first stop of the Extreme E takes us to Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia on April 3, to the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. The aim of this stage is to draw attention to increasing desertification and drought and the threat of water shortages. Then it’s off to the Atlantic Coast of Senegal on May 29, to Lac Rose, to draw attention to the state of the oceans. In August, the third race will be held in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to highlight the melting polar ice caps. The penultimate stage of the series will take place in autumn in the Brazilian state of Pará to promote the protection of the Amazon rainforest. And finally, in winter, the event heads to Tierra del Fuego to address the issue of glacial retreat. Credit: iStock / Alamy Stock Photo / Shutterstock
3/4 The first stop of the Extreme E takes us to Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia on April 3, to the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. The aim of this stage is to draw attention to increasing desertification and drought and the threat of water shortages. Then it’s off to the Atlantic Coast of Senegal on May 29, to Lac Rose, to draw attention to the state of the oceans. In August, the third race will be held in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to highlight the melting polar ice caps. The penultimate stage of the series will take place in autumn in the Brazilian state of Pará to promote the protection of the Amazon rainforest. And finally, in winter, the event heads to Tierra del Fuego to address the issue of glacial retreat. Credit: iStock / Alamy Stock Photo / Shutterstock
4/4 The first stop of the Extreme E takes us to Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia on April 3, to the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. The aim of this stage is to draw attention to increasing desertification and drought and the threat of water shortages. Then it’s off to the Atlantic Coast of Senegal on May 29, to Lac Rose, to draw attention to the state of the oceans. In August, the third race will be held in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to highlight the melting polar ice caps. The penultimate stage of the series will take place in autumn in the Brazilian state of Pará to promote the protection of the Amazon rainforest. And finally, in winter, the event heads to Tierra del Fuego to address the issue of glacial retreat. Credit: iStock / Alamy Stock Photo / Shutterstock

Which brings us to the last point: equality. The Extreme E will see mixed-gender teams when it launches this year. To introduce just a few: Racing legend Mattias Ekström will be sharing the electric cockpit with Claudia Hürtgen for ABT CUPRA XE. Christine Giampaoli Zonca and Oliver Bennett are racing together for Hispano Suiza Xite Energy. Molly Taylor is teaming up with Johan Kristoffersson for Rosberg Xtreme Racing. And Cristina Gutiérrez will be competing alongside Sébastien Loeb for Lewis Hamilton’s Team X44.

Another very important point: CUPRA has taken an absolute pioneering role in the new racing format and is the only European automaker to have entered the racing series. Though perhaps that’s not entirely fair to say. It is the only one for the time being. But someone always has to be first.

The drivers

Claudia Hürtgen is one of Germany’s most successful female racing drivers, having won several titles including the Deutsche Tourenwagen Challenge twice. She has competed four times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Swedish driver Mattias Ekström is a FIA World Rallycross Championship winner and two-time DTM champion.


Latest articles

One with Everything

Words of wisdom from Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a couple of thoughts about inside and out – plus a review of the brand-new BMW S 1000 R and a little story about a pair of old motorcycle gloves waiting in a drawer.

Short & crisp: Harm Lagaay about the Boxster design

Nothing against the 911, but Porsche is much more than that - something we have Harm Lagaay to thank for, too. A conversation with Porsche's former chief designer about the Boxster, launched 25 years ago, Porsche's design language - and how to create something brand new for the future from a glorious history.

Till Brönner: the jazz adventurer

If you're successful with good music, you don't need to worry about labels. Others attach them to him on their own - both the good and the bad. Till Brönner can say a thing or two about it. On the occasion of the 50th birthday of the jazz adventurer, photographer, and Dressman, we read again what Brönner had to say in rampstyle #9.

Parking garage? Art space!

120 years ago, the first parking garage in history opened on Denman Street in London. A lot has happened since then: public garages have grown and transformed from functional buildings to architectural statements. And some, like the Züblin parking garage in Stuttgart, have even become art galleries. A visit with the 911 Speedster.