If only for a moment, set aside the words ‘motor’ and ‘sport’, and think about a bigger canvas which is currently being painted.
It used be a bit abstract, but now it is modernism personified.
It is the story of a masterpiece in how technology, sustainability and efficiency will benefit all in the decades to come.
It is important because the ABB FIA Formula E Championship is unique in a multitude of ways.
Eureka moments have characterized the history of the all-electric series, from the now legendary meeting in a Parisian restaurant between Alejandro Agag and Jean Todt, to the way it snatched itself from the jaws of doom after just four races in 2014-15 thanks to the vision of Liberty Global.
Then there is ABB, which became the first company to become a title partner of a major FIA sanctioned race series in January 2018.
Just over a year on, synonymy appears fixed. ABB and Formula E’s honeymoon period has developed into a marriage of substance and innovation.
Its leader is CEO Dr. Ulrich Spiesshofer. He was literally one of the coolest people in the Sanya paddock last weekend as he effortlessly shimmied between a perspiring throng to meet with myself, equally overheating, last Saturday.
You instantly get the feeling that Spiesshofer isn’t one for small talk.
“If you take the partnership and our reasons for it, we wanted to have two pioneers united to demonstrate to the world that e-mobility can happen today,” Spiesshofer says.
“I think we have exceeded expectations in terms of the public attendance and being moved by the whole Formula E experience. People are really understanding that this technology is possible now and this was one of our key objectives.
“The second objective was to position ABB as the leading technology partner for e-mobility, and again I think we have clearly made this step.”
ABB is the global leader in fast charging and its technology is at the forefront of several industries, including automotive.
Recently, Tesla announced a new fast charger with 250 kW. ABB offers one at 350 kW, 30 percent better and more efficient than Mr Musk’s effervescent brand.
Spiesshofer says this puts ABB in the bracket of “really the world champions in that aspect of the technology.”
“In terms of mobilising both the public and the decision makers, [Formula E] is a fantastic platform to get governments, the OEMs, individuals and the public together.
“For us it is a good investment and it has paid off very nicely.”
It is often said that motorsport is something of a misnomer. ‘Motor business’ could be a more accurate description in the modern age.
However, long gone are the days of going racing for its own sake. Business is now the overriding factor, hence why manufacturers have stuck to Formula E like filings to a magnet.
For Spiesshofer, the all-electric championship was the perfect canvas to display ABB’s capabilities. But the artists brush needs to get a return for each stroke it paints. If it inspires younger artists then all the better.
“We have a very thorough approach of measuring our brand value and the attention that we get to the brand,” he says.
“We have used this partnership to not only attract the public, but also [specifically], for example, younger people.
“I can tell you since we started this whole exercise the amount of applications from young people to ABB has gone up significantly, because this is a cool company.”
Motorsport and Business Shouldn’t Cost the Earth
Sustainability and matters of the earth which have to be tackled now are also at the forefront of ABB’s philosophy.
Spiesshofer is absolutely clear on how ABB will continue to marry the holy grail acumen of environmental soundness and commercial growth.
“This is a company that stands for running the world without consuming the earth and we are not only saying it, we are doing it with our technology. So, I think it is a very, very good point,” he explains.
“The second point is if we look at the number of cold calls we are getting for EV activities and for charging activities, we are clearly seen as the company to contact when you have a question, also when you want to place an order.
“Our EV business, our EV infrastructure business is seeing double digit growth in a very, very nice way, so it is also commercially a very sound investment.”
Four key building blocks are also utilized by ABB in its overall outlook to contributing toward a more efficient and sustainable world.
“You need electric cars. Today, with our robotic solutions, we are really partner of choice to build electric cars. Basically, most of the Chinese and a lot of the global EV companies are working with ABB in that,” he says.
“The second pillar is the fast charging. We are global leader, we have done about 11,000 fast charging stations in more than 70 countries.
“The third pillar is integrating the whole system into the grid. ABB is the global leader in this as well.
“Finally, the fourth [pillar] is intricating renewables. So I think we have clearly demonstrated that we can do these four pillars.”
With six years of its deal with Formula E to run, the innovative scope of the Formula E and ABB partnership is expanding quickly.
At a time when the depressing spectres of tobacco and betting companies slink ghost-like back into some strands of motorsport, the ABB Formula E story beams a light of clever innovation and multi-industry relevance upon the sport.