News > i3

Formula E Chief Executive Alejandro Agag

Entrepreneur Alejandro Agag is the driving force behind the FIA Formula E Championship, the world’s first all-electric urban racing series.

Born in Madrid in 1970, the 46 year old businessman, and former politician based in London, is the Chairman of Addax Capital LLP. Fluent in four languages: Spanish, English, French and Italian, Agag graduated with a degree in Economics and Business Studies.

Formula E was launched as a test bed for research and development into electric vehicles and to promote clean energy and sustainability. In fact, the first Formula E car was shown on the streets of Las Vegas at CES, three years ago. The inaugural season of Formula E kicked off in Beijing on September 13, 2014, with street races following in nine other cities around the world including Putrajaya, Punta del Este, Buenos Aires, Miami, Long Beach, Monaco, Berlin, Moscow and London.

The battery-driven vehicles race on temporary street circuits in cities allowing fans to be in the center of the action. In contrast to Formula 1, practice, qualifying and the race events take place all in one day and are priced to attract families and young spectators. Formula E cars can reach 140mph (225kph) and accelerate from zero to 60mph (100kph) in 2.9 seconds. The “ePrix” events allow sponsors such as DHL, Michelin, Qualcomm, TAG Heuer and Visa to be associated with advanced battery technology and the environmental green messaging that accompanies it. The vision is to make the world a better place and cities less polluted.

The FIA Formula E Championship will hold its first FIA-sanctioned open-wheel race in New York in July 2017. The electric open wheel race cars will whiz around a 1.21-mile, 13-turn track that will wind around the streets of Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood.

The Financial Times named Agag one of the 10 “shakers and movers” of the Spanish economy in 2007, and he was described as a “political hopeful, economist, banker and indefatigable dealmaker.” In 2008, GQ Magazine honored him as the Spanish “Businessman of the Year.” i3 recently spoke with him regarding his vision for an electric mobile world and what he would like to see at CES 2017.

Tell us about your vision for launching Formula E. What is your business model?

The vision for Formula E is to create a platform to develop the technology of electric cars and also to help change the perception of electric cars. Obviously this needs to be sustainable in terms of business and also to be able to survive in the long term. We generate revenue from sponsorship, which is very strong as big companies now like to be associated with sustainability. We also make revenue from the teams that participate in the championship, that contribute to the costs in the championship and also from corporate hospitality, ticketing and TV rights. That business model is working very well. We are on track to be a very profitable business soon.

Why did you decide to pursue electric cars? Was clean energy part of the decision?

We were in the world of motorsport and we thought something was missing. Something to make motorsport relevant to what is happening on the streets in our cities and our countries, and that is the electric car revolution. We are facing a big change in the industry and we wanted to be part of that. We want to accelerate that change to electric because we think that is what makes motorsport relevant and to play a role in one of the biggest challenges that we face which is city pollution. An even bigger challenge is global warming and this is why we chose to promote electric cars.

How does Formula E act as a laboratory for racing?

Racing has always been a laboratory for the development of technology in the motor industry, before with combustion cars and now with electric cars. Ten teams want to win and they will develop technologies to win – that is the big motivation – that is the goal. As they develop technologies to win, they then can use those technologies for the road cars and those technologies will improve road cars and the experience of road cars users all over the world. This will help more and more people buy electric cars and drive electric cars.

How is a Formula E track unique compared with other motorsports like Formula 1?

The Formula E tracks are special because they are in the streets in the cities. We want to bring this sport to the streets, to the people, to bring this message that electric cars are the solution for mobility in the city to fight pollution. This is the main problem that we face today and is creating huge health problems for many, many people living in the cities.

What are some of the new ideas you’re considering?

Roborace, we are going to have this race with robots – autonomous cars – that will take place before the Formula E race as a support event and we are thinking about many other technologies that we will include in our experience. Formula E is going to be the hub where all the new cool tech things are going to happen, exposed and showcased. That is Formula E, a platform for the future of mobility. We are going to explore all those aspects, like electric, driverless, connected (mobility) and more.

The recent Hong Kong race marked the debut of teams like TECHEETAH, Faraday Future and Jaguar Land Rover. Audi, BMW and Mercedes are also expanding their involvement. Tell us about this evolution and your plans for the race schedule.

All the major OEMs are joining the electric revolution. Everybody is pushing for electric. This is just a consequence that brands are going towards electric. We are the only platform out there that can be both a technology platform and a marketing platform for those brands. We are really happy that they are joining Formula E because they will be the ones that will develop the technology of future electric vehicles.

What role will technology companies and manufacturers play with the development of Formula E and your teams?

Technology companies are absolutely essential for the development of Formula E and the teams. They will be the actors. We just build the theatre, we need the actors inside the theatre to develop this technology and improve electric cars. Technology companies and manufacturers are actually the key actors in our movie.

What mobility trends do you see driving the automotive industry?

Definitely the trends are electric, connected and driverless. Because all those trends completely transform the automotive industry and will transform the way we move around, particularly in cities. Cities are a revolution waiting to happen in terms of mobility. We are going to see huge changes in terms of mobility in cities in the next few years and driverless (vehicles) will have a lot to do with that.

Will drones and driverless cars impact Formula E in the future? Will all cars be electric?

I am absolutely convinced all cars will be electric one day. And I am absolutely convinced that all cars in the world will have some sort of driverless function and this is going to change the way we see transportation. Drones? I think that is probably the next step. We will see where that goes. I am actually meeting some people myself who are doing something really interesting around drones. We could even now call them flying cars.

Where do you envision the company in five years?

In five years, I think this company is going where the world is going and where the industry is going. It is probably going to be the most relevant motorsport championship in the world.

Cindy Loffler Stevens