Sunday 16 April 2023

Rally - Hydro X Prix

St. Helena arrives in Scotland

There is a lot of cynical scepticism about the whole idea of Extreme E, the world wide electric vehicle off-road racing series being promoted to advance the idea of sustainable and environmentally friendly motor sport. But considering the money, the planning and infrastructure behind this whole concept, the brains behind this original idea will have been prepared for all the likely and unlikely arguments and objections from the ‘green brigade’ and eco-warriors. And that goes for the rest of us motor sporting sceptics.

For a start, those power generating containers spotted on the TV cameras behind the scenes for charging up the vehicles are hydrogen fuel cell powered, not diesel, whilst the ship itself is one of the ‘greenest’ sea going ships on the planet.

A former passenger cargo ship, the St. Helena, has undergone a multi-million Euro refit to minimise emissions and transform her into Extreme E’s operations hub. The ship transports the championship’s freight and infrastructure, including vehicles, to the nearest port, in this case Greenock, and will then be based in Troon throughout the duration of the Hydro X Prix.

Since its purchase in 2018, the St Helena has had a complete refit. In addition to building a science laboratory for ongoing research work, there are 62 cabins on board which can sleep up to 165 people, two lounges, an 80-seater restaurant, a 100-seater exterior deck, an 80-seater presentation area plus capacity to carry 90 20-foot shipping containers.

The ship uses low-energy LED lights, has low-water consumption bathroom fittings and chairs made from recycled plastic bottles, collected from the Mediterranean, amongst many other innovations. There is also a hydroponic system on board in the kitchens which enables the Chef to grow the ship’s own herbs and garnishes.

(  And here’s a very personal plea, please don’t tell the high heid yins at Ferguson Marine or the twa ferries might be further delayed as they attempt to copy some of these ideas above!  )

Amongst the cargo, is the fleet of ODYSSEY 21 electric race cars, plus all the temporary structure based paddock of team garages, Continental tyres, and other operational equipment required to set up the race site in the former Scottish opencast coal mine at Glenmuckloch.

Of course, the sceptics will continue to castigate the use of electric vehicles, but you can’t blame the motor companies for that. It’s the governments of this world which have decreed that the internal combustion has to be replaced by electric motors, and that means using batteries. And yet, despite this the auto manufacturers are continuing to research and develop sustainable fuels, synthetic fuels and other power sources such as hydrogen.

Alejandro Agag, CEO and Founder of Extreme E, said: “Only 18 months ago world leaders met in Glasgow for COP26, aiming to secure global net zero by the middle of this century. As an off-road rally series which focuses on the promotion of electric vehicles and clean energy innovations, the old mine is the perfect natural amphitheatre to showcase the necessary industry transition to move from fossil fuels to clean energy futures. It will also impactfully act as an example of the important role water can play in future renewables and healthy conservation.

Racing in Dumfries and Galloway will create the exciting opportunity to highlight climate issues and solutions that are not just global, but also right on our doorstep. The racetrack lends into this aim, as it is located in the restored former opencast coal mine, which is about to undergo the next phase of its major transformation into a Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) plant and wind farm.” 

Whether this is the right way or the wrong way to promote electric vehicle propulsion is a matter of personal opinion, but if the governments of this nation and the rest of the world are dead set on killing off the internal combustion engine in motor sport, then what is the alternative? Scalextric, Playstation or X-Box?

Admittedly I’m still on the sceptical side of the argument, but there are bigger brains than mine behind this with big reputations at stake, including sponsors, highly regarded specialist engineering companies and well known motor sporting personalities. Either they all know something we don’t or it’s all about the money. I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but let’s see how Hydro X Prix plays out plus the feedback from the local community and Queensberry Estate.

It’s just a pity there is no chance for the motor sporting (and motoring) enthusiast to visit this event and see for themselves, so therefore we will have to rely on the TV coverage which will be live on STV and ITV over both Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May.

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