What we learned from Extreme E’s new TV documentary

Though it's a little light on detail in places, it was a strong introduction of Extreme E to a mainstream audience


Past midnight? On a school night? To watch something on the telly? Are you mad?

Clearly I am. Or I would have been if I’d missed it. Courtesy of this link and the relevant sign-ins and things, you can watch it at your leisure. And you should.

It’s a mark of the inherent strength and importance of Extreme E that Channel 4, one of Britain’s three titans of network television, ran it just outside of prime time on a Thursday night. The program’s aim was a simple introduction to the concept of Extreme E: the car, the countries and the challenge.

But before all of that came the core message. The sun rose over planet earth, cut to raging bushfires, icicles melting, exhaust pipes smoking, tornadoes, super storms and somebody rolling an enormous globe down the road carrying a banner urging us to ‘Make the shift to wind & solar.’

A flash of lightening sends the screen black. Pause. Silence.

“Time is running out.”


Photo: Extreme E

That apocalyptic opening gave way to a fascinating half-hour, running from Alejandro Agag’s game-changing Parisian supper with FIA president Jean Todt nine years ago, through Formula E to Spark Racing Technology’s Paris factory and the race against time to get the first Extreme E chassis on the road in time for a Goodwood Festival of Speed launch last year.

Working hand-in-hand with battery supplier Williams Advanced Engineering and tyre partner Continental, Spark conducted the first test in Narbonne and handed the car over to reigning World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen and his younger brother Kevin. The Swedes were asked to – gingerly – put it through its paces.

When quiet became silent, Timmy reached for the radio.

“What happened Kevin, did you crash?” he asked nervously.

The explanation for Kevin was a drive problem to the front wheels. Ever so slightly rabbit in the headlights, Timmy eyed the camera awkwardly.

“Technical issue,” he offered, looking ready to be elsewhere.

Set against an unnerving timescale, reaching Lord March’s house for the Goodwood Festival of Speed on time was exceptional. Admittedly, there’s a degree of showbiz about the show. We’re lead to believe, for a while, the car might be on the verge of tackling motorsport’s biggest challenge in Dakar, but it turns out it’s just the final stage of January’s Saudi Arabian adventure.

None of that matters. What matters is the wider understanding of what Extreme E is and how it’s going to change off-road racing for good. In every sense.

Plug in some cool Ken Block, Dakar-cred with Guerlain Chicherit, St. Helena boatiness and a bevy of clips cut from some of the world’s most compromised ecosystems and it’s a wrap.

Standing in front of a map linking race locations in Senegal, Saudi, Nepal, Greenland and Brazil, Agag offers: “In January 2021, we will be coming to the world with the first ever Extreme E race.”

Music, skids, glaciers and rainforests and we’re done. Slick.

A bit more detail on how the racing’s going to work would have been nice, but Channel 4’s more mainstream than hardcore. Even after midnight.

That detail will come. And build on what was an impressive early screen presence.