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“Barriers are being knocked down fast”: Alex Sims on the evolution of e-cars

With a successful season so far, this British driver is passionate about motor racing and sustainability. Being a Formula E driver, he sees racing as an engaging way to promote electric vehicles.

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As an ambassador for Formula E, it helps that Alex Sims, the 32-year-old British racing driver, is fanatical about electric vehicles and everything to do with sustainability. In his private life, he’s driven an electric car for eight years, long before he was recruited to the BMW i Andretti Motorsport team for the 2018/2019 season.

Now in his second season, Sims clinched his first victory in the Saudia Diriyah E-Prix in November 2019, and stands third in the championship (at the time of writing) with six races remaining, all to be held in Berlin. 

For Sims, his job is a dream as it combines his two passions – motor racing and sustainability. He takes pleasure in the way Formula E is helping to promote electric cars, as well as being a testing ground for motor manufacturers to develop their technologies. As such, he’s playing an important part in the transition to a cleaner environment.

I don’t think everything will go autonomous because people enjoy driving. I am looking forward to what’s to come.

Alexander Sims

Shifting perceptions and testing boundaries
“Formula E is doing a great job to help change perceptions,” asserts Sims. “It doesn’t just bang on that electric cars are the thing to do and you need to change your habits. It’s created a sport that engages people because it’s exciting and therefore people are made aware of electric vehicles. You can learn about the benefits of electric vehicles. It’s a really good way of engaging people in the message that we’re giving here in Formula E.” 

“It’s a really exciting time to see that electric cars are becoming mainstream”, he continues. “In the next five years that will change even more as most people consider electric cars for their next purchase.”

Learning as you go
Starting his racing career in karts in 1998, Sims went on to receive the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award for promising young British drivers ten years later. The following year, he progressed to Formula 3. When making his debut in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship ahead of the 2018/19 season, Sims set the fastest times during pre-season testing for two out of the three days. With his interest in renewable energy and electric cars, Sims is well placed to race for a manufacturer that prides itself on its hybrid and all-electric cars.

“I think the racing environment encourages manufacturers to push the envelope in terms of design,” he says. “You don’t normally have that in road car development because cost is the number one factor. But in Formula E, we only develop five or six vehicles in total, so the overall cost is not such a consideration. We can use interesting lightweight materials, different magnets and motor constructions, and generally make things more efficient. It’s an exciting way for the engineers to test the boundaries and then tone it down a little bit to put it in the road car production side of things.”

Anticipating an electric future
Looking to the future, Sims is hopeful that the barriers stopping electric road cars becoming mainstream are fast being knocked down. The range has risen to 150-300 miles; charging speeds have increased; costs are coming down. 

He imagines a society in 15-20 years where electric vehicles are normal, and combustion engine vehicles are for weekend enthusiasts celebrating a bygone era. Like many others, he expects that autonomous cars will be popular, assuming the technology is safe, with many people finding them a relief from the daily grind of commuting to work.

But he doesn’t think sustainability will completely rule out driving. “I am pretty confident that the enjoyment of driving a car will remain. I don’t think everything will go autonomous because people enjoy driving. I am looking forward to what’s to come.”