Just because the initial trigger was economic (and there’s nothing wrong with that), don’t think Agag is insincere about his ambition to make a positive impact on climate change. The Extreme E ‘legacy’ programme he’s created to justify the choice of remote and environmentally vulnerable locations needs refining, but it is early days. Face to face, he sounds almost evangelical on the subject.
“I would like to create a great entertainment product, a great race at its heart, then I’d like its impact to be real on the climate action side,” he says. “I want this to be a real contributor to climate action, to take on real projects, to involve as many people as possible. I want Extreme E to be an agent to bring companies together to work on climate action.”
He has invested heavily in EVs but openly accepts battery technology alone will not solve the world’s crisis. “I’m convinced the solution will be a combination of technologies,” he says. “I think EVs are great and we are pushing them, but they are not everything. They are clearly the best solution for cities [it’s why Formula E takes place on pop-up street circuits]. Hydrogen is very interesting. E-fuels I’m still not convinced by, but I’m open to be convinced. They work for motorsport, but I’m not sure they work for road cars. The question I ask is: ‘What if I put e-fuel into a car fleet today?’ If you have a new engine, fine, but in a current engine, you still get emissions. You still get particulates and NOx, which is a big problem.”
He has a funny, pertinent analogy on e-fuels based around one of his own bad habits: “If you have solar or wind energy and that powers an electric car, that is zero emissions. But if you have solar energy to capture carbon [out of the atmosphere] and then you release that carbon back… it’s a weaker argument. People give me sh*t because I smoke cigars, that I’m emitting CO2 and I say, yeah, but the leaves of the tobacco plant I am smoking have already absorbed the CO2 I’m emitting. A cigar is a cigar, a car in the city is a bit different.”