/Formula E/

The world’s leading electric-powered racing series held its maiden championships in 2014 and got full FIA World Championship status in 2020. It’s the brainchild of FIA president Jean Todt (former Scuderia Ferrari – the F1 team – team principal), and Spanish business mogul and former politician Alejandro Agag.

You could sit and watch the ABB Formula E circus for yourself when it descends upon Cape Town in February, but it will cost you R1,000. To be fair, you could hit the Fan Village for R350, but there may not be a view of the track. This is the series’ first visit to sub-Saharan Africa – Morocco hosted the Marrakesh ePrix in June 2022 – but hopes are high that it isn’t the last.  

Yes, you read right, the nameplate sponsor for this year’s championship is non-other than the Swiss engineering firm that owes South Africa R2.5 billion for its role in the Kusile power station financial irregularities. This is on top of the R1.6 billion it paid to Eskom in 2020. 

“Formula E was created with the primary purpose to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and promote sustainable practice, raising awareness of the benefits to driving electric and how clean mobility can counteract climate change” says Julia Pallé, sustainability director at Formula E.

Early concept render for Cape Town ePrix

What is it?

In 2020 the Formula E World Championship became the first global sport to be certified with a net zero carbon footprint. They did this by investing in certified climate-protecting projects in all race markets to offset emissions from every season of electric racing.

The series is the first and, to date, only electric, single-seater race series in the world and quickly became the favourite playground for carmakers to show electric wares. In 2023 no fewer than eleven teams will report to the start grid with two cars each.

How does it work?

Formula E has a unique format with both the qualifying and the main race held on the same day. This makes for a more compact and efficient schedule – and helps reduce the environmental impact of the series. There’s also no provision made for parking at race which almost forces fans to use public transport to get to the CBD venue – which could be challenging for the residents in Cape Town’s northern ’burbs.

Cape Town ePrix is set for 25 February 2023 in the Cape Town Stadium precinct where the (approximately) R44m civil engineering job will deliver a 2,8km, 12-turn track using existing streets. The project is funded through the City’s Urban Mobility Directorate.

Proposed Cape Town ePrix track layout

“This exciting international event will put Cape Town firmly on the global racing circuit, displaying the city to audiences around the world. This will help bring more people to Cape Town, driving economic recovery and growth,” says Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis

“It will attract a new market of racing enthusiasts to visit Cape Town. Our city has a strong local racing community, and I know they’ll be thrilled with this event. Hosting this global event will help Cape Town create job and business opportunities for residents and entrepreneurs.”

The City of Cape Town (CoCT) is quick to point out that it did not fund any bidding process for Formula E Operations Limited to obtain the rights to host the local event. Instead, CoCT was approached for support by a Cape Town consortium – known as E-Movement. It was this private group that obtained the rights from Formula E to host the local event.

CoCT Special Events Committee approved funding for the event based on its pre-existing criteria:

  • Demonstrate a positive economic, social and environmental impact.
  • Create job opportunities for residents.
  • Provide opportunities for local traders.
  • Bring international and national media attention to Cape Town.
  • Provide the City with national and international marketing opportunities.
  • Create lasting legacies from the hosting of the events.
  • Improve social cohesion.

Gen3 racecar

Formula E has a new car – all manufacturers use the same car – and this year’s machine is the fastest and lightest. Most interesting is the superfast 600kW charging which finally introduces in-race recharging to the series. And some of the bodywork is made from recycled carbon fibre, a first for single-seat racing.

We’re just happy to have an international, single seat racing series back on South African soil, even if the tickets aren’t really priced for our market.