Alexander Sims by Grandstand

Alexander Sims - on switching to, powering, and racing EVs

Jul 23, 2019

Alexander Sims started racing karts back in 1998. Numerous series later he is now driving in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship for BMW i Andretti Motorsport. A keen advocate of electric vehicles and renewable energy, we are extremely proud to partner with Alexander and very much consider him part of Team Tonik. 

Here, Alexander discusses how he got turned on to driving EVs, how he recommends people go about getting an EV, and what it’s like to race them professionally. 

Making the switch to EV was an easy one for me. 

I remember it so clearly, that moment of knowing I needed something different. I was doing a lot of miles and seeing a lot of people. I’d filled up three times in one week and there was a lightbulb moment: ‘this has to change’. All this petrol I’m putting in the car, two days later, it’s gone. You put more petrol in, it’s gone. We know it’s a finite resource, and we have to do something; it’s going to run out and we’re going to have no solution if we don’t start now. I suddenly felt a responsibility to see what else was out there in the world of automotive technology.

I’ve led a very charmed EV life. 

My first EV was a Tesla Roadster and at the time there wasn’t a road car I’d driven that could match that EV’s performance. It blew my mind how much acceleration I still had in a relatively nimble car. Things have moved on with regard to the number of cars on the market, but those characteristics remain. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a Nissan Leaf or a BMW i3; all EVs - even the lower-spec ones - are pretty high-performance. In EVs, you don’t have this trade-off with performance and efficiency that you do in a combustion engine. 

Formula E cars are extremely interesting from a racing driver’s point of view.

The biggest difference is having to really think about efficiency in your driving style. We start off without enough energy to complete the race by driving every lap flat-out. It’s the first time where my driving techniques have come under such scrutiny for efficiency, which has been an interesting process to learn. This season, when we've been able to conserve power thanks to things like running slower behind a safety car, it has shown how dull it becomes. When everyone has the same power to deploy towards the end of the race it becomes something of a procession. You lose that strategy to leverage your position as best you can. I think it’s a crucial thing to keep in Formula E. It promotes natural racing. 

I was relatively used to speed before I got into an EV.

After my first test drive in Maidenhead, I ended up thinking, ‘I’ve got to have one of these’ because it was so good. It was a crazy experience to have that instant acceleration, totally addictive. In real-life situations, it’s far safer because with a set performance level you know how the car will react to your driving, as well as you not needing to worry about changing gear and getting it a bit wrong. EVs are just there all the time when it comes to power. 

I stop to charge so infrequently these days. 

I start most days with 140-150 miles of range in the car and I hardly ever do more than that in a day, so I never stop to ‘re-fuel’. I was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed recently, and a friend arrived at our hotel having not filled up his car with petrol. It had about four miles of range and the following morning we had to cruise around gently so he could get to the petrol station. I appreciate that not all situations are comparable to that, but if that car was an EV and the hotel had charging points, suddenly it would be super convenient. People talk about range anxiety only for EVs, despite people worrying about running out of petrol all the time. There was a time when there wasn’t a petrol station on every main road to fill up, then they started springing up because there was a demand for it. The more EVs there are on the road, the more infrastructure will be demanded and the more charging operators will supply. 

Power EVs right. 

Lots of improvements are made by going EV in the first place, but for us to have an emission-free society in terms of transportation, the energy you use to charge your EV has to be renewable. Otherwise, you’re simply trading one fossil fuel for another. Using renewables is so important, obviously from an environmental point of view, but also because more money going back into the renewable sector allows it to blossom and develop, making us all less dependent on the fossil fuels we’ve used for too long. So going renewable when you have an EV is completing the circle.


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