Electric SUV racing is going to the farthest corners of the Earth.
And for Extreme E‘s third round, that means Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. This village of just over 500 people resides in the scar left behind by a glacier thousands of years ago, leaving behind a sandy plain perfect for racing.
The Greenland event, titled the Arctic X Prix, was the midway point of the Extreme E season, one that could change the scope of the overall championship. It featured the longest and most challenging track the series has seen so far; it was five miles long and featured sand, compacted rock, dunes, and a rock garden made of large boulders. 18 drivers from nine teams would have to tackle the challenging circuit in hopes of setting the fastest time and securing more championship points.
Related: Off Road, All Electric, Women Required: Meet Extreme E, The Electric Racing Series That Will Change Motorsports
Extreme E’s Mission
Why head to the desert or a glacier to host a race? Extreme E’s biggest goal is to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on extreme locations, where the impacts of climate change are often most emphasized. We all know that the glaciers are melting at a rapid rate, for example, but as Professor Carlos Duarte told us, most people don’t fully understand why that’s important. The poles of the earth are actually the center, he said; the Arctic is essentially the temperature regulator of the whole world, and damage to it damages humanity in all parts of the world.
Taking a motorsport series can highlight these unique quirks of the area, which might introduce these issues to an audience unfamiliar with them.
But It Goes Well Beyond Just Racing
Extreme E doesn’t just want to race in these extreme climates; it wants to change the world one location at a time. That’s where the series introduces something it calls Legacy Programs.
Essentially, these programs are designed to introduce lasting changes to the locations at which the series races, with the ultimate goal that XE will have a lasting impact. In Greenland, there were several different programs happening simultaneously.
First, this is the series’ first race after having begun its rigorous scientific research into climate change. So, we all headed to the Russell Glacier with Professor Carlos Duarte, who handed out some plastic vials and instructed us to collect some pebble-like balls of ice. Normally, he explained, ice is flat and solid, but when you introduce pollutants, the ice will form around those particles. The goal of this research is to understand why the glacier ice is turning black and how it’s being impacted by rampant forest fires around the globe.
The other legacy program involved educating local children about climate change. The local school in Kangerlussuaq used to run on a diesel generator; Extreme E instead provided a series of solar panels with which to power the school. These are small actions, but they provide tangible steps forward.
The series’ CEO also confirmed during a press conference that Extreme E will be returning to Greenland in 2022; the goal is to continue to develop on the legacy programs implemented this year.
Of course, a personal favorite feature of Extreme E goes beyond climate change. This series also highlights gender equality. Each team is required to have two drivers: one male and one female. It’s a fascinating goal of inclusion, tackling various inequalities all around the world.
Full disclosure: Extreme E invited me to Greenland to cover the Arctic X Prix. All opinions are my own.