Jonathan Miller

What the Formula E ‘catastrophe’ teaches us about electric cars

What the Formula E 'catastrophe' teaches us about electric cars
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I didn’t make it down to Valencia, Spain, for the weekend Formula E electric car grand prix. Long trips are more or less out of the question now in my Kona electric car, since Hyundai crippled the range of the battery pack to stop the car from bursting into flames.

Not that I missed much. On the first day five teams were disqualified for having consumed too much energy, three cars came to a stop on the track, and others limped to the finish as best they could. Formula E superstar Jean-Éric Vergne completed the last lap at an average speed of just under 20 mph. Slower than my horse. On Sunday, the Grande Finale, most of those who had finally qualified ran out of battery charge without finishing. Jean-Éric Vergne even went as far as to blame the long stretches of straight road on the circuit, saying that electric vehicles simply weren't cut out for this sort of acceleration: 'I'm not sure that we should have gone to Valencia for racing because it doesn't look good.'

Organisers nevertheless proclaimed the event a great success.

Formula E is supposed to shine a spotlight on electric motoring as governments everywhere are encouraging motorists to abandon petrol and diesel for the joys of electrons. And this it appears to have done. A spotlight albeit unwittingly revealing. Formula E’s Covid-delayed 2021 season appears thus far to have been a farce from start to finish.

In Saudi Arabia, in Rome and now in Spain, the series, with its incomprehensible rules, and arbitrary and capricious judging, has been marked by one spectacular fail after another. Perhaps pedal cars might do better.

None of this surprises me, as an electric car pioneer. I wrote about my Hyundai Kona electric here ten days ago and more than 600 of you have so far been kind enough to leave comments, many of them enlightening and some startling.

Numerous commentators suggested I was an idiot for having bought this car at all. They make a solid point.

Others suggested I was evil, proclaiming my environmental virtue driving a car made possible by children mining cobalt in the Congo. This is also a valid point. A polyglot reader noted why Hyundai doesn’t call the Kona a Kona in Portugal. My Portuguese is rusty, but I get it. Others advised me that I should have bought a Tesla. Like the one I saw broken down at Montpellier Airport on Monday, attended by two baffled technicians. Or the Tesla that supposedly drove itself into a tree in America last week, bursting into flames and cremating both occupants.

In a low blow, Hyundai France has meanwhile blocked me on Twitter.

Numerous inventive propositions have been advanced by kindly readers. One suggested installing a windmill on the roof of my car, so that it might charge itself. Why hasn’t Elon Musk thought of this? And best of all: why not hang tram wires on the roads, and power the vehicles like dodgem cars? Now this is perhaps the direction Formula E should pursue. And if it works, count me in.