Four things we learnt about electric vehicles at DS Virgin Racing's Innovation Summit

DS Virgin Racing hosted an Innovation Summit in Paris ahead of the eighth race of the Formula E 2017/18 season. We were there to hear what the experts had to say about how electric vehicles will help reduce the impact of climate change.

Electric vehicles reduce emissions right now

People might be put off buying an electric vehicle at the moment because the electricity that they’re using to charge the vehicle isn’t coming from a renewable source, so they assume that the emissions are just as bad. However, Sylvain Filippi, chief technology officer at DS Virgin Racing, set us all straight on that.

“Even with current energy grids, electric vehicles will reduce emissions,” he said. “And it’s only going to get better!”

He explained that Formula E is all about “testing and validating the technology on the racetrack” to be able to apply that to personal vehicles and move them to the road so that everyone can benefit.

Electric vehicles are more than golf buggies

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that electric vehicles lack the power of their petrol or diesel counterparts but that’s simply not true. In fact, according to DS Automobiles CEO Yves Bonnefont, electric vehicles are the most accelerating vehicles you can make. Plus, there’s no vibration in them so they’re more enjoyable to drive. He said: "Once people have started to drive electric, they will never come back to internal combustion engines.”

Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, likened it to other forms of old technology: “It's  the equivalent of saying once you have a mobile would you ever want to go back to your landline? It's the same logic. Once you're in the future you certainly never want to go to the past.”

Switching to electric vehicles will have a significant impact

Most people accept that electric vehicles are the future of the motoring industry and know that switching to them will help to reduce the negative impacts of climate change. But just what impact would it have if we all stopped driving petrol and diesel cars tomorrow?

Last month, when the streets of London were shut for one day for the Virgin Money London Marathon, we saw more than an 80 per cent drop in pollution in the city. “That’s what we would see if everyone drove electric vehicles,” Shaun Kingsbury, former CEO of the Green Investment Group, said.

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Renewable energy sources are still important

While it would be an easy solution to adopt electric vehicles and benefit from the impact that they will bring without switching to renewable energy sources, it’s still important to explore alternative sources of power. Yves Bonnefont said: “We need a cost-effective way of generating renewable energy – because coal is cheap and you want to beat coal. And that is going to be a challenge.”

These are the two races against climate change that the world is facing, according to the panel of experts: e-mobility and renewable energy. Christiana Figueres said: “Both of them need to complement each other and dovetail.”

But, as Shaun Kingsbury said, “we can’t solve this alone, that's the key thing – it’s about bringing people together who can.”

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