Formula E event announces sponsor; signals F1’s obsolescence

ABB, a technology company focused on, among other things, e-mobility has joined forces with Formula E as the title sponsor for the series. The announcement was made today in front of special guests and media at the Saatchi Gallery in London. That’s good news for Formula E and it is the first title sponsor the series has ever had. Series CEO, Alejandor Agag and FIA president Jean Todt said:

Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of Formula E, said: “This is a historic day for Formula E and I’m honoured to welcome ABB as the title partner of the series, with its background and expertise in the field of electrification and digital technologies. Our two companies are synonymous with pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Together, as partners, we will showcase break-through technology on a global scale to fans and consumers who follow the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.”

FIA President Jean Todt said: “Formula E continues to grow and in addition to its sporting and technical success, the tremendous level of excitement surrounding this new FIA discipline is tangible. Today’s ABB announcement as the title partner is a strong sign and proof of the attractiveness of this championship, which is still in its infancy. The mobilisation of major economic powers around the pillars of this discipline – new technologies, electric mobility and sustainable development – is a very good sign, and something to be excited about. This contributes to the development and expansion of Formula E.”

At that same event, what I find slightly concerning and was a statement that seems to be a more brash revelation as to the real goal of Formula E, the FIA and eventually Formula 1. The comments were made by Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and one of the members involved in the creation of the 2015 Paris convention on climate change. Unlike Messrs. Todt and Agag, Figueres goes right for the jugular with her vision of all motorsport and the desire to see internal combustion engines disappear.

“We have a lot to thank it (IC engine) for, it got us where we are today,” she said, but noted,”I challenge you to put a date on it (when the IC engine would be history).

“We are now in a race to the future, to decarbonise the world. It is unstoppable, it’s just a question of when.”

According to the terrific James Allen,

“Asked by this site [] after the event whether this meant that Formula 1 as the pinnacle of motorsport would have to become electric or become obsolete, she agreed.

The Costa Rican, who has been Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since 2010, suggested that racing involving internal combustion engines would have a future as an entertainment, a retro series, given that there are many beautiful cars from the last 100 years that people would want to see – and hear – race.”

James goes on the quote Ross Brawn, F1 technical boss, as saying he doesn’t see anything changing for the next 5-10 years but Mr. Allen also added his own comments saying:

“There is an hourglass running on Formula 1’s future as a fossil fuel powered series. As governments increasingly set dates to call time on sales of petrol and diesel engined cars, the waist aperture of that hourglass opens up.

The question, as Figures says, is how long?”

If Figures is simply saying that F1 will simply become a retro series that few people will watch, I think I’ll take that bet and suggest that it may be one of the largest retro, niche racing series in the world with millions of viewers and much more viewers than Formula E. I may be wrong but I’ll put a Sawbuck on it.

Rumors of ICE’s death may be premature

Figures may be calling for the elimination of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) but the New York Times says that may not be the trajectory. Quoting an MIT professor, the NYT article suggests that by 2050, all-electric vehicles may comprise of 15% of the market while ICE-powered vehicles will own 60% of the market.

Government or EU imposition of a world without ICE is one thing but the reality is much different. I’ve argued this point until I am blue in the face but until an electric vehicle (EV) can perform as well as or out-perform an ICE in power output and distance and torque, it isn’t going to be a viable solution as a replacement.

Governments forcing consumers, by law, to only purchase an EV and banning the sale and manufacturing of an ICE is a tad heavy handed, economically egregious and won’t make EV’s an equal replacement for ICE by simply litigating it. Are they legally trying to modify bad behavior or impose virtuous behavior? I’ll let you decide as it most likely depends on which side of the fence you’re on.

It sometimes seems that people like Figures and Todt are missing the simple calculations and scope of the task at hand as well as the current and future projections for EV development. Certainly, the Tesla and other EV supercars are pushing the limits of speed and even though a freight truck isn’t concerned about going 200mph, the technology developed in a EV supercar could help develope a better EV heavy or light-duty vehicle.

One could argue that governmental force and litigation causing the premature death of ICE technology will mandate a move to EV and perhaps the thinking is that consumers need to be forced instead of asked or even accommodated due to a strong demand for buying or making ICE-powered vehicles. Government imposition will drive consumer demand for a technology that isn’t a direct replacement for what they currently rely on? How does that work?

Suppose, if you will, that smartphones were discovered to cause cancer and use more energy so we ban them to create a demand for a Blackberry or Motorola Startac. How is that realistic? Wouldn’t we simply improve the smartphone so it doesn’t cause cancer and does more with less power? Wouldn’t we just improve the ICE so it doesn’t create as much solution and does more with less petrol?

Take Mazda’s Skyactiv-X engine which is 30% more efficient than its current ICE. If 60% of the vehicles in 2050 are still going to be ICE powered, then wouldn’t it make sense to invest heavily in improving the performance and output of ICE’s while Figures dances on its grave?

Still in single digits?

Last July, according to the NYT, 1.4 million vehicles were sold. Know how many of those were hybrids? Just 44,000. Roughly 3%. Let that sink in and then consider how much media you see positioning the EV as the runaway success including Formula E and even all the car magazine journalists who tacked and became megaphones for the EV narrative handing “best car” awards out like candy to the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius year after year. Needless to say, I let all of my car magazine subs expire due to a lack of journalistic integrity and impartialness toward a product.

As I’ve said many times, I am in the technology industry and I am all for the advancement of mobility, communication and safety but while the EV world is advancing, the Figures position seems premature as the technology isn’t ready for primetime. It’s advancing, it’s very impressive and interesting to watch but it isn’t ready to replace an existing infrastructure where lives are attached and in some cases dependent upon.

We’ve been doing this hybrid thing for a while now and governments that are placing bans on ICE-powered vehicles by 2030 or earlier are assuming the development will have achieved a direct replacement for the ICE-powered world. It would be great if it did but is anyone willing to put a flag in the ground on that date? Dictating a date isn’t going to just make it so even if Toto Wolff says they got in to Formula E because “…our road cars are gonna go electric — that’s a fact.”

If every Formula E event is going to be accompanied by Todt and other EU representatives to denounce other racing series, evangelize their sustainability goals and demand the world demonize ICE-powered cars, then I shant be watching much Formula E and if they are determined to pummel Formula 1 into oblivion, then I say “Oi, get your filthy hands off my desert!”.

In closing? Per Mr. Allen’s article, Ross Brawn told Popular Science Editor Joe Brown:

“For the short term, he [Brawn] added, the new owners’ view is that what F1 needs is that “The show has to be the number-one priority. The racing, the drivers, the history, the noise, the smell, the atmosphere.” 

If in short term you mean 30 years, then perhaps in 2050 Formula 1 will be part of that 15% of EV’s on the roads but if they haven’t figured battery waste out and achieved parity in performance, probably best to work on new V8 and V6 ICE power units that can achieve 30 or 40% efficiency. Now that’s road-relevant.

Hat Tip: James Allen on F1 and NYT

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Peter Riva

Honestly NC, I see a major conflict for ALL of US here. 1.There is no doubt that for anyone who has been to a track, inhaled the fumes, smelled the rubber, listened to a V-12 or even a V-6 – there is a physical visceral attraction and impact – such an impact that we long to experience it again – and live with those memories as we vicariously watch F1 or Le Mans series on TV. 2.That said, there is the new real world where everything is video (or AR) and our connection – indeed the connections for many fans… Read more »


I completely agree with all you said. My point was that the bastards WILL make the switch and we won’t like it…. except to go to Goodwood events and recapture the real essence of motor racing. I also agree that they are trying to bait ‘n switch the series and that’s plain dishonest. Drop ALL engine regulation and leave F1 to the racing sport it is/was – turbine, electric, whatever.


One other thing… silver lining? At least they have created a separate FE series instead of restricting the F1 engines (slow them down) to make it see “fair.”

sunny stivala

“I see a major conflict of interest for all of us”. So true Peter, the more so for old farts like me who have been following proper F1 since its inception in the 1950 and have been lucky and truly bitten when in person I had heard the sound of the three best ever engines in the world (BRM V16, Matra v12 and that particular FERRARI V12 of the time, believe me, it was something beyond memorable. But I will not forget someone next to me at Le mans when that v12 Matra went past saying, and at that time… Read more »

sunny stivala

NC, the edit function will not let me rearrange the technical numbers in the last part of my post, when I tried the post will be shortened and not show the last part where I needed to edit.


I have the same issue until I actually click on the post (after hitting edit). Is yours expanding after you click on the post itself?

Initial post after clicking ‘edit’

Post after clicking on post.

sunny stivala

No I did not click on post, I did the usual thing of clicking edit and the last part of the post didn’t show-up, so I could not edit what I intended to edit.

sunny stivala

it was only a few seconds after I posted that I tried edit my post, I know about edit being functional for only something like 15 minutes after one posts as you told me that. anyhow the problem is that when a post is a bit long, and one goes edit, only the top half of the post shows up and so anything in the lower part that one needs edit is not possible. If you don’t mind me asking, what is the scope for the set time for one to be able to edit?.


I never hear the BRM 16 cylinder engine except a YouTube recording, but I watched Graham Hill in his Ferrari 250LM at Goodwood in the paddock. That sound stays with me still.

sunny stivala

I having been fortunate enough to hear all three in person and I believe that the loudest of all three was the BRM V16, yes there are recordings of all three under power, but believe me recordings does not make justice to what one experience when hearing them in person.

sunny stivala

The best sounding V12 FERRARI was the 3-litre V12 of the 1995 412T2.

Tom Firth

Ok so on the first part of this post is what I’m most interested. The all electric F1 stuff, yeah but its several years off. I think the first part may be more applicable and interesting in the shorter term. This is as far as I am aware the first time an FIA single seater series has been allowed a title sponsor. The FIA series have long had associate sponsors etc but not one that is part of the title. By allowing Formula E to have one, it is surely only a small amount of time until F1 has a… Read more »

Tom Firth

Haha yes very funny, I like that type of humour. On a serious note, yeah I completely agree. It is great that they’ve got one and one who is compatible with their goals and it was certainly needed. Would like to see if F1 is allowed one though, it could be good for them too dependent on who the sponsor was. I do wonder if F.E was to move away from the ‘racing in the city’ idea, The annual turnover of circuits may reduce somewhat for them as Indycar and Australian ‘Supercars’ seem to suffer from similar issues in consistently… Read more »


Suddenly, a flashback to a scene from “The Demolition Man” comes into play. You remember that one: Where the character played by Denis Leary rants about wanting a cheeseburger? ;-)

sunny stivala

No matter if we like it or not, the reality is that the car industry is on the road to switch from ICE to all electric road cars, the switch to hybrids PU’S (electrification of the ICE) which at present is being concentrated on is the only thing that can retard the time when all electric only cars will be with us, while the hybrid system is the only thing that can prolong the life of the ICE, the new commercial rights owners in their rush to milk their investment as best they could are pushing to reduce the electrification… Read more »


First, I think it’s great that ABB have taken the step to be a title sponsor. They have dabbled in team sponsorships for many years in different series and this step, especially with Formula E, seems to be a perfect match. I love EV technology and completely agree with NC in his skepticism. Though a lot of the skepticism could be applied to the renewable energy market in general (solar, wind, bio-fuels, hydro, etc). At least in the US, without government subsidies very very few of these energies would find it even possible to turn a profit (with exception of… Read more »

sunny stivala

Not only in the medium term is R&D to perfect the ICE ongoing, but it will be ongoing as far as the hybrid is around, on which most of the R&D will be concentrated on improving thermal efficiency, mostly around the combustion process.


I think your comments and position on Governments legislating to end the production of I.C.E’s overlooks the reasons this is being done. 196 Countries have signed up to the Paris Climate Accord (it was 197, but you’ll know all about the ‘soon to be Great Again’ withdrawer). This means the Governments of nearly all the countries of the world have accepted that human caused climate change is happening, and the planet needs to substantially reduce emissions of ‘greenhouse’ gasses pdq if we’re to avoid catastrophic global consequences. To achieve that, it is necessary to phase out the use of fossil… Read more »


18.5% of the human body is comprised of carbon. Speaking as a human, I have no interest in promoting or supporting a decarbonization agenda. #ZPG

Negative Camber

LOL…self rpeservation. ;)


Zero Population Growth kind of supports the decarbonisation agenda, just do your bit with that mrvco