Extreme Electric Vehicles Mix Racing and Sustainability


Off-road rally racers whine wheel-to-wheel in clouds of desert dust, scrambling past rocky outcroppings, catching air over the peaks of wind- swept dunes and, at times, colliding and crashing. The scene might sound otherworldly—like Star Wars podracing—but the event in Al-‘Ula, Saudi Arabia, in April 2021, was the inaugural race for a new series called Extreme E, which bills itself as “a radical new concept of electric racing, in the most remote corners of the planet.”

Now Extreme E is back for a second season, kicking off in February in Saudi Arabia, followed by a provisional event calendar that includes races in Senegal/Egypt (May), Greenland/Iceland (July), and Chile (November). Each event highlights desert, ocean, glacier, Arctic, Amazon or other stunning landscapes, and offers a “legacy program” such as, in Senegal, mangrove restoration.

Extreme E was created by Spaniard Alejandro Agag, named Motorsport Hero for 2021 by the U.K.’s Autocar magazine. Agag is also founder of the Formula E series that took F1-style racing all-electric starting in 2014. Extreme E is now sanctioned by FIA, the juggernaut that runs Formula 1 and Formula E.

Extreme E wears its scout badges openly. It chooses venues already altered by climate change and says it’s an “all-electric racing series with a purpose—to raise awareness of climate change.” Its intended audience is Gen Z and millennial “electric car buyers of tomorrow.” Teams start with a 536-horsepower, all-wheel-drive racer made by Spark Racing Technology called the Odyssey 21, powered by a 54-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Green hydrogen—made via solar panels or wind, depending on location—is used to charge the cars.

There’s another noteworthy twist: gender-equal racing. Each team has a male and a female driver, each taking a lap apiece. Extreme E says the traditional gender split in motorsports has been 90 to 95 percent male. The goal is to increase female participation.

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