Organizers of the world’s first electric scooter series say they are on a mission to promote and develop micromobility as a safe and integrated component of city life after making its race debut in London.
Khalil Bachir, a co-founder of the eSkootr Championships, saw a role similar to that of motorsport in the early days of automobiles.
“Yes, we are making a new game, we are making an accessible game,” the Lebanese entrepreneur and former car racer told Reuters before Saturday’s race.
“At the same time we have a mission to help the government, the cities, to create safe riders and to work with the cities on the right way to use these scooters.”
“This is where cars were in 1910,” he said of the arrival of electric scooters on city streets four or five years ago.
“People complained about them, hated them when they came to town: ‘They’re not safe, they’re everywhere’,” he said. “We use racing for labs, security, infrastructure, technology.
“This is the goal of eSC – to develop it, as it has done with motorsport and the Formula One car industry.”
Alex Urz, a former Austrian F1 racer and two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner, who is also chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), is a co-founder with former Brazil Formula E champion Lucas de Gracie.
Formula One veteran Nico Hulkenberg has a team and a lot of people in the background with links to the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the world body for motorsports.
The series, however, formed its own commission, led by Urge, to “control and promote the safe and sustainable development of micromobility in sports and urban micromobility.”
“We think we have a really strong product,” Wurz, who first began working on the concept in 2018, told Reuters at a former newspaper print site in London’s Docklands that the first race was organized.
“We have a huge opportunity for grassroots sports where you can find the cheapest motorsport entry and then the career ladder at the world championship level.
“In addition to our sporting ambitions, I said from the first minute that micromobility is such a hot, fast-growing issue and the sector has an obligation to create a balance between our racing and road safety.”
Insurers see e-scooters to be inherently more dangerous than bikes or cars while trial projects for e-scooter suppliers in some cities have speed limitations and stricter regulations.
In London, electric scooters are a common sight but currently only legal on private land or through approved rental schemes, although the government has said it plans new rules to expand use.
Wurz said it was a “blow to the mind” how many interested cities and stakeholders approached eSC and he hoped it would have an impact on urban design.
“The way we’re moving is changing fundamentally,” he added.
“In the future, some of our roads will actually become places to live, a shared space where you can walk, some on bicycles, some on electric scooters, and we have to coexist.
“And we can. That’s the journey – educating people, controlling them, building engineering. How we’re separated but still together. The law needs to be in line.”
The eSkootr machines, raced by 30 riders from 10 teams, weigh about 40 kg and have two six-kilowatt motors with a maximum speed of over 100 kph.
The tires are made from vegetable oil and allow grip male and female riders – from snowboarding and speed skating to hockey, cycling and motorbike painting – to tilt at a 60 degree angle.
The opening winners around the 12-turn 470m course were ahead of Swiss rider Mattis Nairwood, Britain’s Dan Brooks and India’s Anish Shetty.
Other races will follow in Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain and the United States. Asia and Africa are likely to join from next season.
A global broadcasting agreement has been signed to show the race to more than 200 countries on the sports streaming platform DAZN.
“I think it’s going to catch on. I’ve said it and those who have seen it think it’s going to be very interesting and fun,” said Trey White, a bronze medalist at Britain’s former BMX World Championships. “I liked it straight away.”