Friday, March 20, 2015

Sierra Club charged up by Miami electric grand prix

Miami ePrix race. Photo by Mike Matthews.
Sierra Club members and supporters cheered as electric race cars hit top speeds of 140 miles per hour through the streets of downtown Miami last Saturday. But this was no typical race. Formula E cars run only on electricity and make no noise except for the faint whir of electric motors.

"I loved talking to EV owners and ePrix race fans," said Debbie Matthews Sierra Club Florida Chairwoman.  "You got the feeling that you were at the start of something really special.  Hearing owners talk about their EVs almost made you feel like they were proud to be part of a movement; they are part of  a clean energy solution."

Fans marvel at electric cars. Photo by Mike Matthews
Miami is one of only two U.S. cities to host in ePrix's inaugural season, spanning 10 cities in Europe, South America and Asia. Several hundred Sierra Club members and supporters are believed to have attended the race, which brought 20,000 fans to downtown Miami.

Before the race, fans could learn more about electric vehicles in the nearby eVillage. BMW electric cars and  Florida Power and Light solar phone charging and miniature car racing stations were just some of the cool displays. Area high schools got in on the action, by building and racing their own electric cars.

Also on display: the Venturi VBB-3, the world’s most powerful electric vehicle, a 12-meter-long rocket packing 3,000 hp that aims to break the 600-kph barrier (372 mph) this year.

Venturi VBB-3, the world's fastest electric car
Photo by Mike Matthews.
The Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle campaign saw the Miami ePrix as a catalyst for electric vehicle adoption. Miami has much to gain by a reduction in fossil fuels. This coastal region of six million people, lying only a few feet above sea level, is ground zero for sea level rise.

Tesla, Leaf and Volt owners flocked to the race, as well as many others who hope to soon upgrade to an electric vehicle.

"It's really captured the imagination of quite a few people who are excited about what the future of electronic technology in road cars is going to be like,” ePrix spokesperson Luca Colajanni told National Geographic.

Photo by Mike Matthews.
Formula E cars can accelerate from zero to 60 in 3 seconds. Instead of swapping batteries, drivers hop into a new car halfway through the 39-lap race. Fans can vote for their favorite players on-line giving them an extra boost of power. ePrix teams are backed by some big names like Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

French driver Nicolas Prost, oldest son of four-time Formula One World Drivers' champion Alain Prost, won the Miami race, narrowly beating American driver Scott Speed.

Long Beach, CA, will host the final race on April 4.

Click here for a short Fox Sports video recap of the race.

Thinking about buying an electric car? Check out the Sierra Club's EV Guide and more about our Go Electric campaign.

Here's a video of the entire race:

-- Jon Ullman, Sierra Club Senior Organizer, Electric Vehicle campaign