NYC Nails Formula E 100% EV Action, NJ’s Formula 1 Dream Slips Away

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Preparations are heating up for Formula E — the official EV version of auto racing’s legendary F1 circuit — to take place in New York City this summer. The timing is somewhat ironic, considering that just across the New York Bay, the state of New Jersey has been trying to stage a Formula 1 race since at least 2011. The chances of that happening seem all but impossible now.

No, it’s not a simple case of electric technology beating out the gasmobile. Financial issues seem to have pulled the rug out from the New Jersey Formula dream. However, the circumstance does underscore how some US states are enthusiastically embracing clean tech while others are falling behind.

Formula E  EVs Come To Red Hook

Formula E caught the CleanTechnica eye back in 2013. Plans for the first circuit were just revving up under the guidance of its CEO Alejandro Agag, and the operation got a generous shot of publicity when US actor and climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio announced that he would co-sponsor a team.

The world got a sneak peek at the Formula E style in 2014 when an official Formula EV went on tour, including a stopover at the Bloomberg New Energy Summit in New York.

The first circuit took place in 2015. CleanTechnica had boots on the ground for the Berlin episode and got a first-hand look at the eerie spectacle of high speed, high performance machines whirring around a track with barely a sound.

Things have been happening fast since then. Last year Motorsports Network grabbed a stake in Formula E, citing a high level of fan engagement.

Formula E is also on the verge of solving the EV charging dilemma. So far, EV teams have been required to assemble two identical vehicles to run the course, so drivers can switch cars instead of laying over to change out or recharge batteries.

The 2018 season will mark a milestone in EV tech. A new battery from McLaren Applied Technologies will “nearly double” capacity. The cost is a weight gain of 10% but the end result will be a demonstration that EVs can compete without battery-related down time.

Those of you interested in catching Formula EVs in action in New York can head over to the Red Hook section of Brooklyn on July 15 and 16.

So…What’s Up With New Jersey?

Back in 2011 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was quite excited to announce that Formula 1 would be staged in New Jersey, but that has yet to happen.

The big problem is money. In countries where Formula 1 has a firm foothold, government picks up part of the tab with the expectation of a big return in terms of global prestige, tourism and other economic activity.

That’s not the case in the US, where anyone with F1 dreams in their head better come prepared with deep pockets.

Last fall our friends over at Autoweek noted that a plan by Liberty Media to purchase Formula 1  could revive the increasingly dim prospects for F1 in New Jersey.

Those plans came to fruition in January. A hitch seems to have developed, though, so stay tuned for more on that.

In any case, a combination of term limits and low polling numbers guarantee that Governor Christie will be long gone before Formula 1 roars into New Jersey.

NY 1, NJ 0

The different fates of the two Formula races in the neighboring states illustrate in miniature the disparate fates of clean tech in different US states.

On the one hand you have New Jersey, where Governor Christie came into office inheriting an ambitious solar and wind plan. The state was also a founding member of the RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) and plans were well underway for a key regional mass transit improvement, the ARC Tunnel.

The solar plan was built into state law and it has soldiered, on but the state’s offshore wind potential has withered on the vine. Somewhat ironically, New York will most likely get bragging rights to the first offshore wind farm in the region, and the turbines will be visible from the Jersey shore.

Christie also unilaterally removed New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, effectively killed the ARC project forever, and stalled on an important multi-state initiative for EVs.

Meanwhile over in New York, mass transit is on the move. The long-awaited Second Avenue subway line is moving forward and the city expects to launch a new ferry service any minute, just in time to offer Formula E fans a convenient way to get to the track.

As for the RGGI, the remaining RGGI states are thrilled with the positive economic impact of the initiative and last November they put the machinery in motion to “triple down” on initiative.

Meanwhile New Jersey has a ways to go before it even catches up with the national average rate of economic growth.


Photo (cropped): via Forumula E.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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