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William Kimberley: Time to make a statement

30 September 2019

I am not a climate change activist but as a father and grandfather I am very concerned about the fate of future generations and the challenging climatic conditions that they will have to face in the future.

In the latest issue of  RACE TECH, I refer to a book written by Jeremy Rifkin published in 2002 called The Hydrogen Economy – The creation of the worldwide energy web and the redistribution of power on earth.

Writing 17 years ago he talks about turning the vehicle into a mobile power plant, with the imminent introduction of cars, trucks and buses operated by fuel cells.

Diamler-Benz was forecasting that it would produce 100,000 fuel cell cars by the end of that decade. Ford joined the Daimler-Benz, Ballard Fuel Cell Systems consortium, increasing the joint investment to more than $1 billion while Toyota, General Motors, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi were all working on such technologies. Then came the economic tsunami in 2008 that swept all these programmes off the table.

However, gone but coming back and this is where the motorsport industry really must lead the charge before it too is swept away by impassioned teenagers like the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who caught the attention of the world with her heartfelt speech at the recent UN Climate Action Summit n New York. She said among many other things: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

It doesn’t take too much stretch of the imagination before you see motor racing come under the attack from her and her fellow generation, who see nothing beneficial in cars charging around a circuit seemingly doing greater harm to the climate.

We do now have fantastic series that have grabbed the headlines – Formula E, the lower profile Jaguar i-pace ETrophy and the forthcoming Extreme E series with no less than Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing’s chief technical officer, as the ‘lead visionary’ for the Veloce team. Then we have the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s ambitious plan to introduce hydrogen-powered race cars to the Le Mans 24 Hours by 2024.

However, this is the tip of the iceberg. Motorsport has traditionally been at the forefront of pushing technology boundaries and it needs to reassert its position, that what it is doing is of great benefit to the larger community and other industries in developing green and super-efficient technologies. It needs to engage the young, explain in simple terms why it is an important and essential partner. It needs a high-powered voice and effective media campaign to spell all this out, not just to the politicians, but to a much wider audience. Time is running out.

William Kimberley is the Editor-In-Chief of RACE TECH. 

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