Extreme E kicks off with first all-electric off-road race in Saudi Arabian desert of Al-‘Ula

Extreme E kicks off with first all-electric off-road race in Saudi Arabian desert of Al-‘Ula

FIA-sanctioned international off-road racing series Extreme E recently started with its inaugural race, called the Desert X Prix, in the Saudi Arabian desert of Al-‘Ula, showing the performance of battery-electric “Odyssey 21” racecar provided by Spark Racing Technology.

Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, CEO of the Bahrain International Automobile Circuit, affirmed that Saudi Arabia took the lead in organizing the first intercontinental electric SUV race in Al-Ula on Sunday, offering a wonderful competitive atmosphere because of the beauty of its nature.

The Odyssey 21 is an all-electric off-road SUV that has especially been designed for use in the Extreme E series. This racecar has been developed and produced by Spark Racing Technology, the same company that builds chassis for the Formula E cars. The electric SUV’s battery is built by Williams Advanced Engineering that previously provided batteries for the Gen 1 Formula E cars.

Weighing 1,650 kg (3,637 lbs), the Odyssey 21 racecar puts out 400kW (550hp), which is enough for accelerating the vehicle from zero to 100 km/h (0-62) in just 4.5 seconds. It is important to keep it in mind here that it is not a track car; rather it is an off-roader featuring a niobium-reinforced steel frame, huge tires, and raised suspension. It is capable enough to conquer rough roads and gradients of up to 130 per cent (over 52º). Its performance is great on all sorts of surfaces, including road, rigged terrain, sand or gravel.

Series owner Alejandro Agag said he was considering some changes to make the races more exciting and to force teams to place the female drivers directly against the male drivers. Currently, teams are lined up with two drivers each, and all driver pairings are gender equal – one male driver and one female driver.

Speaking on the topic, Agag said, “I'm thinking of tweaks and I have two in my mind -- one I just came up with while I was watching the shootout. I'm thinking that maybe I do a draw, a lottery, for who races, so we mix female and male drivers for all the races. Otherwise we are seeing that the teams are lining up all the men at one point and the women second. But I will think about it, it's just an idea."

Extreme E has been designed specifically to highlight climate change and encourage sustainability by racing in various remote parts of the world affected by global warming or suffering environmental damage. The next round of the championship is scheduled to take place in Senegal between May 29 and 30 this year.