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SMITH: Why Nissan’s Entry is Monumental for Formula E

Formula E editor Sam Smith looks at the recent decision by Nissan to join Formula E and what it means for the burgeoning championship….

Photo: Nissan

Imagine a World Cup without Brazil or a Premier League season without Manchester United. It’d be a bit hollow, wouldn’t it?

This is not dissimilar to what Formula E would be, as it continues to expand, had Nissan not been a part of its future.

The Japanese automotive giant and in particular the new Nissan Leaf electric car range is set to now pulsate the same passions on the track as Neymar and Lukaku do on the pitch. Nissan is, after all, the world leaders in electric vehicle sales.

If Formula E is to grow outside the often cloying confines of motorsport and directly in to people’s consciousness, then it has to have some of the big players and sellers on its side.

So, what does Nissan’s engagement in Formula E mean to the wider world and what is the view from outside the paddock gates of the world’s biggest EV seller throwing its lot in with Alejandro Agag’s lightning-infused sporting disruptor?

It’s a question not easily or satisfyingly answered right now. It’s way too early for that.

The perception of it, though, in the present anyway, is of a hi-tech train speeding furiously toward a better tomorrow in mobility terms.

In a sporting sense, as well as a social or mobility understanding, this view may just be a small slice of what the all-electric championship can etch out upon its tantalizing blank canvas in the next decade or so.

Nissan comes to Formula E with a peculiar predicament. It is essentially taking over the mantle of sister brand Renault, already a three-time champion and a winner of almost 50 percent of all races so far held.

At present, there is no confirmation as to whether the crack e.dams team will remain operating the team, although common sense surely dictate they will.

As e-racing365 revealed last week, early indications point to the whole project being masterminded, practically at least, from Nissan Europe’s Paris base. With e.dams just a short drive away in Le Mans this would be a logistical no-brainer.

Unexpectedly, the motivation for Nissan’s entry into Formula E is to protect and further grow its status as the number one-selling electric car maker.

Through marketing the new Leaf model, one which has a sporty element through a special NISMO version recently revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan aims to head off the threat of Tesla and its new Model 3 which currently has 450,000 deposits laid down.

The challenges are notable for Nissan, largely because it is no longer the only mass-market EV on the block.

Therefore, a sporting activation such as its Formula E program could be just the ticket to push ahead with these plans and targets.

The stigma of Nissan’s last major international program is now history but only time will tell if it lingers on. The GT-R LM NISMO LMP1 project was bold yet disappointing.

Revisionist history is not being immediately kind to it, but that may soften in years to come should aspects of motorsport get ever more homogenized.

For now, though, Nissan is embracing the future, but at present just 0.5 per cent of the global car market includes EV sales. The prospects for future growth look appetizing to manufacturers, and on the face of it that is why we are seeing the recent influx in to Formula E.

Additionally, the UK and France have stated already that they will ban sales of diesel and gasoline vehicles beginning in 2040.

The largest vehicle market on earth is China, and it has driven forward plans that have enabled EV demand throughout its mainland, which in turn has given a massive impetus for a fertile EV industry to boom.

As exciting as this is for the bigger picture of Formula E, Nissan will ultimately be judged on results against high-profile rivals such as Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes and Audi.

For this we can rejoice, because rarely in racing circles do the big OEM names converge at the same time in the same place.

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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