- Extreme E makes its debut in Saudi Arabia
- All-electric off-road series uses 536hp Spark ODYSSEY 21 car
- Teams of one male and one female driver to compete in five events
Extreme E, the much anticipated electric off-roading series made its debut in Saudi Arabia over the Easter weekend, after more than two years of highly publicised build-up.
The latest creation of Formula E supremo Alejandro Agag has attracted a high profile entry list of nine teams, including operations set up by F1 champions Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button.
Button is one of a number of well-known drivers competing in the series, alongside motorsport legends including Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb.
Each driver competes at the wheel of the Spark ODYSSEY 21 car, which founder Agag wanted to feature high power, huge torque and have a massive range of capabilities.
At a first glance, the vehicle looks rather like the machines that compete in the legendary Dakar Rally, and for good reason. As well as the arid deserts of Saudi Arabia, the series will also race on the beaches of Senegal, glaciers in Greenland, the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and then the finale on another glacier in Argentina.
As a result of the diverse challenges on offer, the resulting car is a 400 kw (536 horsepower) battery-electric monster, capable of launching to 62mph in four and a half seconds, and at gradients up to 130 percent, with a maximum torque figure of 920nm.
Measuring 2.3 metres wide, 4.4 metres in length and weighing in at 1650 kilograms, the ODYSSEY 21 features a common package of standardised parts manufactured by Spark Racing Technology with the powerful battery coming from Williams Advanced Engineering.
The chassis utilises a niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frame, crash structure and roll cage, while massive 940mm Cross Contact tyres supplied from Continental include options from extreme winter to summer use. A number of high-tech features include Continental’s ContiConnect system which allows each team to monitor live tyre data including pressures, tread depth and temperatures.
With comparatively high weight compared to most motorsport categories, Extreme E cars are equipped with six-piston Alcon brakes featuring iron discs and pads to provide plenty of stopping power.
It sounds beefy, and it has to be. A number of spectacular crashes were a feature of the debut event in the Middle East, yet all drivers emerged unscathed.
As with most motorsport series, teams are able to develop the cars, with areas open for innovation including the motor, inverter and parts of the exterior bodywork.
Extreme E is aiming to be carbon positive, so the series will be removing more carbon from the atmosphere that it generates, while this has a knock-on effect on other areas of the series. For instance, water and sunlight are used to generate hydrogen power to charge each car’s batteries, with the water by-product being used to provide supplies for people on site. Crowds are not permitted as part of the carbon positive efforts.
Each event will highlight the damage occurring in the regions, while also showcasing the increasing capabilities of electric cars. Two decades ago, electric vehicles were mainly for delivering milk, now they’re jumping over sand dunes and powering over glaciers, at speeds well in excess of 100mph. This is well worth a watch.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.