LONDON — Continental A.G. has agreed to become a "founding partner" and tire supplier of a new racing series for off-road electric vehicles( EVs) set to start competition in 2021.
The new series, dubbed "Extreme E," aims to bring together automotive OEs, motorsport and other stakeholders to highlight the performance and environmental benefits of EVs, the series backers said a launch event Jan. 31 in London.
Financial terms of Conti's engagement were not disclosed.
Starting in 2021, a dozen teams are expected to race electric SUVs in remote world regions, including those suffering the effects of climate change. The organizers — including Alejandro Agag, the principal behind the growing Formula E road-racing series — did not identify any automotive companies signed up to the series but said discussions were under way with at least nine major companies.
The series will take place in five of the most remote locations on the planet, showcasing the performance of electric sport utility vehicles (SUVs) as they compete in extreme environments. Target locations include the Himalayas, the Indian Ocean coast, in the Arctic, across deserts and in the tropics, forcing drivers to cope with extreme heat and humidity, high altitude and subzero temperatures over rally-style off-road stages of around four to six miles.
The launch was held on the St. Helena, an historic ship that the organizers are renovating to become the series' mobile operational base.
As a founding partner and sponsor of Extreme E, Continental will start prototype testing in April, towards developing tires for the extreme race conditions.
"The first time I heard of it, I thought this idea is crazy enough to change things," said Philipp von Hirschheydt, head of passenger and light truck replacement tires for Continental's Europe/Middle East/Africa region.
"Extreme E it is about racing and making the difference and a passion to win, all embedded in sustainability," he said.
"This is where we really want to be," continued von Hirschheydt, saying that Continental is "engineering to the extreme to make this (racing) formula a big success."
"Extreme E can help make the world more sustainable faster," Mr. Agag said at the launch.
The series, he added, will help progress EV technology and showcase the "impact that clean mobility solutions can have on the efforts to halt global climate change.
"I've always been passionate about progressing electric vehicle technology and the impact that clean mobility solutions can have on the efforts to halt global climate change," Mr. Agag said.
The series will be operated in association with Formula E and use a traditional round-robin format with two groups of six teams — with the top-four progressing to the knock-out stage and each driver going head-to-head to earn a place in the final. The off-road stages will feature a series of virtual gates to be navigated through by drivers.