Vancouver City Council approves FIA Formula E car race starting in 2022

Apr 29 2021, 2:07 am

Vancouver is now one very big step closer towards seeing its first FIA Formula E car race in East False Creek, starting in July 2022.

In a 9-1 vote this evening, Vancouver City Council approved a partnership with Montreal-based OSS Group to bring the massive battery-electric car race event to the city at no cost to the municipal government.

Only COPE councillor Jean Swanson voted in opposition, while Mayor Kennedy Stewart was absent from the decision.

OSS Group has been working on planning a Canadian round of the Formula E race for the past two years, and it ultimately decided to work on an event plan for Vancouver. The intent is to host the event in this city for at least three years.

“We were approached by Formula E to look for a city to host a race in Canada. We decided Vancouver was the best fit,” said Matthew Carter, the CEO of OSS Group, during the city council meeting, emphasizing the event’s goals of promoting the electrification of transportation and proving net zero carbon emissions.

The 2022 Vancouver E-Prix, the name of the event, already has the support of Formula E, which has been waiting for city council to make its final decision.

Formula E cities development director Oliver McCrudden, who virtually spoke to city council from the UK, said his organization will now enter into a contract with OSS to move the project forward. And then in June, they will submit their 2022 calendar that includes Vancouver to the international governing body for motor vehicle racing, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), for ratification.

Carter also noted that following city council’s approval, they will establish a Vancouver office and employ a local organizing team to begin detailed planning.

“Since receiving early plans, I’ve been very impressed by the OSS Group event concept. Their analysis and event planning has been exemplary, and their vision for a race event in your city makes it clear to me that Vancouver would sit beautifully alongside the other names on our global roster,” said McCrudden.

“The event is central to what we do, and the OSS plans for a Vancouver E-Prix deliver on our guiding principles.”

formula e vancouver 2022 race circuit

Draft plan for the race circuit, event site plan, and schedule for FIA Formula E Vancouver, July 2022. Click on the image for an enlarged version. (OSS Group)

Carter says this will be a three-day event starting on a Thursday with the e-VOLVE business conference on the electrification of transportation. The two-day conference will have a venue capacity for 2,550 attendees.

Programming on both Friday and Saturday will end at night with a major concert at BC Place Stadium, which will have a spectator capacity for 42,000.

On Friday, there will be a celebrity race, and an opportunity for the public to explore the race circuit. The practice periods, two qualifying races, and the main race will be held throughout Saturday.

“What we’re offering is much more than just a Formula E race. The three components with the business conference, the concerts, and the race is very unique,” said Carter.

“It’s a unique concept even to Formula E, and it’s a model we hope to showcase in Vancouver and to prove that the concept works. And then maybe, I’m hoping that this will become the jewel, Formula E’s crown, and they’ll take this business model to other cities around the world. It’s very much a different proposition to a normal Formula E race.”

formula e vancouver 2022 race circuit

Draft plan for the race circuit and event site plan for FIA Formula E Vancouver, July 2022. Click on the image for an enlarged version. (OSS Group)

The race circuit — approved by city staff — winds through the Concord Lands, along Pacific Boulevard between Griffiths Way and Quebec Street, and along Quebec Street between Pacific Boulevard and Central Street. Grandstands and other viewing areas will be erected for a capacity for 56,000 spectators.

Overall, the event will use 56% less public streets compared to the last Molson Indy race held in the area in 2004, and complete road closures will last for only 48 hours.

The emitted noise of the battery-electric race cars used is far lower than Indy, and even below SkyTrain.

“We have very much designed the road closures and diversions. I assume there will be some involvement with city staff. We’ve drawn the track, we’ve gotten approval for the track, and we fully understand what streets need to be closed and diversions need to be made,” said Carter, noting that the circuit’s route can change each year to account for the rollout of the Northeast False Creek Plan.

In addition to covering all costs — including municipal costs dealing with planning, logistics, traffic management, and policing — the organizers will leave permanent physical legacies of vehicle charging stations in the area. They will also be required to offer event access and participation for at-risk youth.

This completely sets OSS’ Vancouver approach apart from Formula E held in Montreal in 2017, which was organized and funded by Montreal’s municipal government.

formula e berlin 2016

FIA Formula E in Berlin, 2016. (Shutterstock)

City council approved this event through a motion by independent councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung and Green Party councillor Michael Wiebe, as a way forward to help regenerate the battered tourism and hospitality industry following the pandemic.

The Vancouver E-Prix is expected to produce $83.5 million in local economic spinoffs, with 17% of its attendance projected to be international, 31% domestic, and 52% local. It will also create 3,000 jobs jobs across 195 suppliers, with 95% being local.

According to Royce Chwin, the president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, these spinoffs are against the late 2020 performance of a 70% drop in overnight stays in Vancouver, 64% drop in domestic visitation, and 80% drop in US and international visitation, as well as a downtown hotel occupancy rate of only 28% — a 65% drop year-over-year.

It is estimated $9 billion in economic impact and 70,000 tourism jobs have been lost in the city.

“This is no longer a story about recovery, this is a full-out rebuild and a restart of tourism and the visitor economy. This is about focusing on new opportunities while trying to preserve what’s left,” said Chwin, adding that “2021 is not looking any better than 2020.”

“This important event is one of many vehicles… that signals to businesses and potential investors of all shapes and sizes that tourism is important to Vancouver’s long-term, responsible economic growth story.”

Formula E

2018 Formula E in Rome, Italy. (Shutterstock)

Multiple councillors stated there has been immense positive public feedback, over the past week ahead of today’s meeting, on the idea of Vancouver hosting the event.

“The excitement is throughout the city… it has been pretty amazing with the amount of people who have come out to me excited about this. It’ll be interesting to see how many new fans we can see in Vancouver in this sport, and I just think the idea of getting a conference about understanding the amazing technology advances that have come and to see it in person,” said Wiebe.

“It’s also about supporting our tourism industry and recognizing it’s time to show some hope and really take Vancouver where we need to go and bring some excitement back.

Kirby-Yung added: “It has been really articulated that this is a win-win for a number of reasons…. I’ve heard a lot of support across a broad spectrum of people. It offers hope for our hobbled tourism industry, it’s a carbon neutral formula, for pandemic recovery, enables us to build back better, and offers green inspiration. And it would just be fun. People are looking for some hope on the horizon, and we heard and loud and clear.”

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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