Earth Mission: Cupra and Extreme E
“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.
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.
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.
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.