What does car racing have to do with smart cities? (Quite a lot, actually)

Thu, 2017-02-16 12:38 -- Doug Peeples

Enel photo

Going green is a practical way for companies to grow their reputation for sustainability and innovation. And hooking up with the increasingly popular  FIA Formula E open wheel electric car racing circuit is one way to do it. But Council Associate Partner Enel has a long-established reputation as a pioneer in renewable energy, smart grid technology, sustainability and other related fields. So why in the world would the company feel a need for more green cred than it already has?

The story below answers the question and why the company's venture is very relevant to smart cities and the future of urban mobility. Here are two key takeaways to consider as you read it: It's an innovative approach to testing energy and mobility technologies, and the Formula E race circuit offers an opportunity to familiarize a very broad audience with those technologies and promote how beneficial they can be. — Doug Peeples

When the Formula E race begins Saturday, February 18, open wheel electric race cars will speed through the streets of Buenos Aires. For the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and thousands of fans it's a car race. For major partner Enel, it's another round of technology testing and R&D.

Enel signed on with FIA's Formula E racing program (yes, the same FIA affiliated with Formula 1 racing) in 2016. For company CEO and group general manager Francesco Starace, the opportunity was one the company couldn't pass up. As he said at the time, "We are delighted to be partnering with the Formula E teams to lend our expertise in accelerating the digitization of their energy management infrastructure and powering them through our energy generation technologies. Enel and Formula E are natural partners, as we both embrace the exciting opportunities in electric mobility, smart cities and the clean energy revolution." In other words, the company sees the partnership as a testing ground to evaluate and improve its renewable energy, smart grid and energy management technologies. Another major goal is to help the series reduce its carbon footprint.

A diverse collection of technologies
Enel designed a portable digitized mini-grid for Formula E races (also referred to as ePrix) to ensure the electric grids of host cities will not be overloaded, and its smart metering technology will be used to let racing teams track their energy consumption. The company also is providing LED lighting for the racing circuits and public recharging stations for drivers who arrive in electric cars.

Formula E is adding solar panels and glycerin-fueled generators coupled with an energy storage system to provide power for the event.

As the company explains, "Our LED lighting devices, public recharge stations for electric cars and renewable generation systems will help turn the ePrix into carbon neutral events and up-to-date examples of a fully sustainable for each city."

Mark your calendars for Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley...
Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley will bring together city leaders and technology innovators to explore trends and disruptive technologies for smart cities. The conference kicks off on Monday, May 8 with in-depth pre-conference workshops on crucial topics such as resilience and readiness. Click to learn more and register.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.