How about a green prix in Singapore?

An electric car race at F1 leg here would help showcase Republic's eco-awareness
Dr Jem Bendell, Today Online 20 Feb 08;

THE race date has been set, the downtown street circuit has been mapped out, hotel rooms are being snapped up and tickets have gone on sale.

It's evident there is a buzz — some would suggest a frenzy — surrounding the first Formula 1 (F1) street race in Asia.

The F1 race, to be held here in September, will showcase the city to a global television audience of several million and boldly signpost Singapore as a cosmopolitan global city.

The question is what kind of global city.

At the sidelines of the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that a new inter-ministry committee on sustainable development would be set up. Its aim: To map out a comprehensive strategy to keep Singapore's economy growing in an environmentally sound way.

Now, here's a radical idea. The Singapore F1 race might be a perfect opportunity to showcase green cars.

Sounds crazy?

Perhaps Singapore could host a pre-Grand Prix race, an opening act of sorts: A race between electric sports cars from around the world.

Just last month in Detroit, the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy struck a partnership with car-makers to promote the first top-level "green" motor racing championship. Next month, some of the world's biggest car makers, including General Motors, Honda, Audi, Mazda and Porsche, will race cars running on environmentally preferable fuels, like ethanol, at the American Le Mans Series held in Sebring, Florida.

An even greener race would see cars powered by electricity taking to the track.

It is promising that this year, electric toy cars are not only one of the "in" toys for boys — actual "life-sized" electric cars have also become the "must have" for celebrities.

Zero to 60mph in four seconds? Well that's the Tesla Roadster, currently being driven around Hollywood by the likes of George Clooney, Wyclef Jean and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Some say electric sports cars have become striking symbols of "style with a conscience". As concerns over climate change mount, perhaps gas-guzzling machines will not look so flash after all.

A World Widelife Fund report entitled Deeper Luxury noted that the tastes of high-end consumers in many parts of the world have been evolving, as they embrace a greater consciousness over social and environmental issues. And this, it seems, also applies to the cars they drive.

Until the Detroit announcement, only college students in the United States have raced electric cars. The rally from the Motor City signals that it is time to think big.

How about having Lewis Hamilton zip around the Padang in the Tesla? If the British driver takes your breath away, at least it will be a breath of clean air.

An electric Grand Prix might even inspire Singapore's drivers to buy electric, or at least hybrids like the Lexus offerings or Toyota's Prius. Given that such electric cars can go over 200km between charges, there is little chance of a flat battery while in Singapore.

With further rebates on registration fees and taxes for electric cars, the car boom might eventually complement, rather than threaten, Singapore's eco-modern aspirations.

Perhaps this is something the new inter-ministerial team on sustainable development can consider.

An international electric car street race here would illustrate just how far the country has come — and frankly, what could be more uniquely Singapore?

The writer is the founder of Ecosing.com, a portal for Singapore's sustainability professionals.

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