Julia Pallé, Formula E World Championship Sustainability Director
Julia Pallé, Formula E World Championship Sustainability DirectorFormula E

"Over 95 per cent of the metals are recyclable and the lithium is over 85 per cent, close to 90 per cent," says Julia Pallé, Formula E World Championship Sustainability Director

Formula E showcases a sustainable way we can keep motorsports alive. We caught up with Julia Pallé who is the sustainability director of the Formula E World Championship

We speak with Julia Pallé, who is the Sustainability Director for the Formula E World Championship, during the Jakarta e-Prix. She talks about the new Gen 3 cars for this season, the way Formula E doesn’t have an impact on the environment, the challenges the championship faces, and what the future of these high-tech electric race cars is. Catch the full interview below.

Q:Julia, what exactly does your role as sustainability director entail?

A: In essence, sustainability director means developing and implementing the strategy and the vision for Formula E from the sustainability and purpose point of view. And that really means that we have clearly laid out a purpose for the championship. It is a purpose that encompasses everything in terms of accelerating sustainable human progress. We do it by utilising racing and sports to inspire people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles; we offer a very clear and concrete solution through electric racing. So that’s what people can adopt straight away – drive electric cars. But there's also a wide range of other solutions that are showcased in what our partners are doing in particular. For example, DHL is doing sustainable logistics, Julius Baer is investing in sustainability projects from a banking standpoint, and so on. My role is to ensure that we live up to a purpose and deliver it in a concrete manner. So, from an event perspective, how we engage with local communities, how we align the strategic views with the racing teams, partners, the host cities, and suppliers, and how we pioneer in terms of innovation, mostly around cars, while also ensuring we are always at the top of sustainability standards internationally.

Q: Could you give us some examples of what you've done?

A: To give you an idea, on the environmental side we were the first sport in the world to achieve net zero carbon since inception, which means that we've been measuring our carbon footprint since the very first day in Beijing, the very first race, and so on, and we've been putting in place some reduction measures to reduce the carbon footprint of the championship. And then for what was unavoidable, we decided to purchase carbon credits. And on the social side, what is very important to us is that we always engage with the local community, we work with local schools and local universities, and we have a programme dedicated to female and gender empowerment because we know that we work in an environment and a sport where it's more difficult for females to make it in general as a career, because it's a more technical environment, especially if they want to become a racing driver. We have a global partnership with UNICEF, so we are focusing on youth and empowering children to fight against climate change by educating and empowering them, giving them the opportunity to lobby in their local communities. Then, on the innovation side, there's all of the work we've been doing around the cars. So the cars you see are the first cars in the world to be conceived with the principle of circular economy in mind. So we knew, already, what the end of life of the cars would be. That was a key requirement and we’ve taken into account the carbon footprint of the previous car, the Gen 2, to design those cars to make sure that we would reduce the carbon footprint and be more efficient, among other things. But, once again, here's the big picture.

Q: When you say the series is net zero, do you mean everything, like all the work to set up this track?

A: You are correct. So it includes all of the logistics that travel around the world with us, such as the cars and batteries and so on. So all of the logistics that travel around the world. All the people who travel around the world with us, including the racing teams, because there is no show without the team, and it makes no sense to not have them as part of that, or the spectators who attend the events wherever they come from. We use surveys to understand where people are coming from. The food served at the event, or the event infrastructure from the cement block to the fences to the grandstands, and so on. The energy required for us to power the cars and the events, so the full scope.

Q: You mentioned the circularity of the car, right? Could you give a little more detail on that and clarify what you mean by that?

A: Circularity is basically a concept where you think about the end of life of the product while designing it. That is the power of circularity because if you have the end in mind, you’re able to design the product in a better way to ensure it has a proper end of life. Therefore, the way we’ve been designing the cars, so that all of the carbonfibre used in the chassis of the cars can be, will be, or has already been recycled. That’s the case of all the Gen 2 cars, we collect the broken parts and chassis and recycle them into new carbonfibre, that’s the beauty of it. It's a new industrial process that we had to go and find in the aerospace industry because it didn’t exist as a common practice in motorsport. For the tyres, it’s an existing process – the recyclability of tyres – but it’s a new technique that is going to be used. It is a chemical process called pyrolysis, as opposed to before, when it was energy recovery. You basically get carbon black back from the tyres, and reinsert it into the tyres. Energy recovery was completely using the tyres but not enabling any repurposing of the tyres. Then with the batteries, it is really about the cells – the silver bullet in terms of the recyclability. What we have been working on with Williams is that the cells will be repurposed every other season. Season 9’s cells will return in season 11. And season 10’s cells will return in season 12. The reality is there have been such great improvement in the technologies to recycle the metals including lithium, that over 95 per cent of the metals are recyclable and the lithium is over 85 per cent, close to 90 per cent.

Q: Is that technology being transferred to the automakers who take part in your series for use in the creation of upcoming streetcars? And with tyres and tyre manufacturers, is it the same?

A: These three elements that we worked on—the batteries, the tyres, and the chassis—are the parts that are shared by all of the cars. But, of course, all car manufacturers and teams have access to this technology, and they've been collaborating with us and have been informed by us about what was going on and how we were doing it. We briefed them regularly. That is something they know of, they have access to the information. They do not manufacture themselves, but they have access to our manufacturing knowledge.

Q: Could you give us an example of what you did in India and some examples of how you've engaged local communities around the world?

A: So, we have a consistent approach to engaging local communities in the sense that we always try to tailor the approach to the local culture and local needs. But, in general, we always try and work with local charities, schools, and youth in general. In India, we engaged with a group of students from a local university who came to the track, had behind-the-scenes access to the event, and had awareness on the fact that we were much more than a race – really understanding the nitty gritty of sustainability on our end. We also had a wonderful collaboration with UNICEF, in particular in India, visiting two projects that we have contributed to finance through the global partnership we have with UNICEF on all climate-related topics. This was in two local communities in the Pune area. These were some specifics regarding India, but in general we always have a generic plan to engage with local communities that we customise to the local culture. But the common traits are that this is about really the people that are closest to track, that are impacted, and potentially disrupted by the race. We make sure that we make up for it and they really understand that there is a benefit to having us at their door. Then there's always a focus on youth, whether it is school children or university students who we visit or invite to the racetrack, to showcase that we're all about inclusivity. And then there's the specific program called Girls on Track.

Q: Okay, so what is being done in the championship to promote gender diversity while also including racial minorities?

A: Girls on Track is our flagship programme from this perspective, because we’ve taken all the barriers we have for access of people coming from diverse backgrounds and we use the first prism of gender. But we also tackle socioeconomic issues because it is true that motorsport is overrepresented by people that come from wealthy families, and is also overrepresented by people that come from a white background. So we try and actually fish girls that come from the local communities that come from underprivileged ethnic minorities, and we get them to come to the race for a day to get a sense of the various careers available to them, ranging from engineering to journalism, mechanics to logistics, and racing driver to sustainability professionals. And, of course, they get to meet the racing teams and the drivers, which they absolutely adore. But what we want is for them to understand is that one: it is a welcoming environment; and two: there are already a lot of women around here already, to basically inspire them that it's a possibility. And there's no reason why they can't embrace a career in motorsport because we also create an environment where they'll have access to the right people, hence the right advice in terms of the right type of universities, should they want to study journalism or engineering and end up in motorsport, the opportunity to have internships with some of the racing teams and partners, and so on and so forth. Another important example, in the context of communities, is what we do in Mexico in conjunction with our UNICEF partnership. So this collaboration is all about how we can support and impact local children in their communities on how to fight climate change, by educating and empowering them. And what we do in Mexico is very close to our hearts because it's a project that was created through our partnership with UNICEF; it didn't exist before we started working with them, and it's really amazing because it's such a simple and smart process. There are a lot of issues in Mexican communities around access to water. Access to water in these communities is low, with less than 60 per cent of children in schools having access to clean water every day. Obviously this triggers a whole lot of complexities for them, ranging from difficulty learning due to a lack of hydration for their brains, to hygiene. It is a roof-mounted water harvesting system with a simple natural filtration system and a tap that they can use. And it's also connected to a solar panel that makes the whole system run from an energy point of view. Not only do the kids have access to water every day now, but they are really the champions of that system. They take care of the system in school, but what's even better is that it benefits both the teachers and the community. So the way things are set up culturally in Mexico in those communities, the parents can get clean water for themselves. So globally last year with UNICEF, we were able to positively impact 7,00,000 children, but that isn’t even taking into account the sort of butterfly effect that those projects are creating, impacting their little brothers and sisters, their parents, and so on and so forth. And we are expecting to receive the report for this year, and we hope that it will be close to 2 million children that will be positively impacted.

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