An International Electric-car Race To be Held in Southeast Asia in 2020
An electric version of Formula One is set to arrive in Singapore next year and the race will take place in Marina Bay.
The Straits Times understands Formula E - which uses electric instead of petrol-powered racers - will be held together with the Singapore Grand Prix in September next year.
The venue will be the street circuit in Marina Bay, which has been used for F1 since 2008. This is to avoid separate road closures and associated disruptions if the event were to be held at another venue.
Earlier, an Orchard Road circuit was being considered.
Observers said pairing Formula E with Formula One will also make both events more attractive to viewers and lead to a larger audience.
Others see it as setting the stage for what may be an inevitable migration away from F1, which is considered in many quarters to be carbon-intensive and environmentally unfriendly.
Officials from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Ministry of Trade and Industry and SingaporeGP, which organises the Singapore Grand Prix, are in talks with Formula E to nail down details for the race's Singapore debut.
But none wanted to comment. Mr Sam Mallinson, senior press officer of Formula E operations, said "no comment" when approached last week. Both the ministry and STB said there were no updates to share. And SingaporeGP was unreachable for comment.
But sources close to the discussions said a decision has already been made, and barring unforeseen circumstances, the race will take place here in September next year.
If so, Singapore joins a growing list of cities hosting the event. They include Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Monaco, Mexico City, Rome, Paris and New York. Others like Adelaide, Vienna and Saint Petersburg are said to be vying to be included.
More auto manufacturers are plugging into the event too, with Porsche announcing its participation last month and Mercedes-Benz confirming in March.
Others on the grid include Audi, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan. Mahindra Racing of India and NextEV Nio of China are also in the running for the championship.
The attraction is fuelled by each manufacturer's plans to grow its electric model line-up, as well as an aim to reach the younger generation, which is said to be more environmentally conscious. Formula E is said to have a younger audience than F1. The race, which is only five years old - F1 is nearly 70 - has an audience participation element. Called Fanboost, it allows fans to vote - on social media of course - to give their favourite drivers extra power boost in a race.
The battery-powered racers are already punchier than before. Second-generation cars are capable of hitting 100kmh in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 280kmh. While up from 3 seconds and 225kmh previously, they are still some way off from what an F1 car can achieve (under 2 seconds to 100kmh and top speed of over 320kmh).
Formula E cars, however, cannot go on for as long as F1 racers because of the range of their batteries. Each race will last no more than 50 minutes or 80km to 100km - one-third the length of an F1 race. To take this into account, the Marina Bay circuit will either have to be modified or the e-cars will run fewer laps.
Mr Tan Teng Lip, who represents the Singapore motorsport fraternity on the F1 race organising committee, said: "I think it's more likely to be a shortened circuit, as having fewer laps may not be very exciting."
Mr Tan, a motorsport veteran, said having Formula E on its own at a separate location may not be feasible. "To do all the preparations for a two-hour event does not make economic sense," he said.
"It's good to bring in a different category of race. Hopefully, it will get more people to come."
Hosting Formula E ties in with Singapore's ambition to woo electric vehicle manufacturers to set up shop here. Dyson of Britain is the first to do so.
Correction note: The Ministry of Trade and Industry said this report is inaccurate, and that MTI and the Singapore Tourism Board “currently have no plans to host Formula E at the Marina Bay Street Circuit”. A spokesman for Singapore GP also said “there are currently no plans to include Formula E into the track activities at the Marina Bay Street Circuit”. She said that at 5.063km per lap, the track is too long. “We are always looking at ways to offer the best spectator experience possible but Formula E is not part of those discussions,” she added. We are sorry for the error.