Nearly two decades after Vancouver saw its last Molson Indy, a form of this urban car race festival could return in July 2022, but it would use quiet, zero-emission, battery-electric cars.

Next week, Vancouver City Council will consider a motion by NPA councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung and Green Party councillor Michael Wiebe to support a private group’s plan to host FIA Formula E in East False Creek next year.

The motion states the municipal government was approached by OSS Group — a private Canadian promoter of the Formula E World Championship — to host a one-day battery-electric vehicle race, along with two music concerts, and a two-day creative business conference focused on climate and sustainability.

Grandstands and other viewing areas with a capacity for tens of thousands of people would be erected along the race circuit.

This race is being pursued for Vancouver as a significant post-pandemic recovery measure to support the battered tourism and hospitality industry, while also promoting sustainable transportation and the electrification of transportation modes.

“This is a much more broader event than Indy was,” said Kirby-Yung in an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized.

Altogether, this would be a three-day event. It is anticipated to generate about $80 million in local economic impact, and support 3,000 jobs across 195 suppliers, with 90% being local.

“We need some light in this tunnel for people to look forward to,” she said.

“We’re hearing a lot of positives around doing this event because our tourism industry is so beleaguered, so it’ll be nice to see a bright spot on the horizon in terms of rebuilding back from COVID-19, and to do it with a net-zero event.”

The grandstand, pit stop, and start/finish line of the Molson Indy at Northeast False Creek in the early 2000s. (Duncan Lang/Flickr)

Under a partnership with the municipal government, OSS Group would cover the full costs of hosting the event, as well as any costs incurred by the city, including planning, security, and traffic management.

Consideration would also be given to bringing the event to the city each summer over a three-year term.

“To bring this motion forward, we ensured the organizers would be committed to covering all the costs of the event. We’re very explicit in the motion that the event will be delivered at no cost to the city,” she said.

FIA Formula E in Berlin, 2019. (Shutterstock)

Learning from the logistics of Molson Indy, the motion stipulates “the event should minimize impact on community, road and park usage, include dialogue with False Creek residents to address neighbourhood considerations, and ensure public access to the seawall is maintained throughout the event.”

The private group has indicated it is committed to limiting road closures to a duration of 48 hours. It is anticipated some parkade entrances on Quebec Street would be affected, with access being provided to the City Gate Tower 1 at scheduled times.

“The site plan is still under development. They looked at a number of different areas and decided the East False Creek area made the most sense, partly because of the proximity to transit and wanting to have a greener way for people to get to the event,” said Kirby-Yung.

Molson Indy Vancouver

Race circuit of Molson Indy Vancouver in East False Creek, 2003. (Molson)

So far, the idea of hosting FIA Formula E in Vancouver has the broad support of numerous entities, including the operators of BC Place Stadium and Rogers Arena, as well as Science World, Westpark, Tourism Vancouver, BC Restaurant Food Services Association, BC Hotel Association, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

Vancouver’s Champ Car race, the Molson Indy, attracted over 150,000 spectators throughout the event’s weekend-long duration each year. It ended in 2004, after 15 years, largely due to the construction of the Olympic Village taking up much of the race circuit, and the complaints made by neighbouring residents over the noise of the cars, which would not be an issue for Formula E.

Kirby-Yung says the decibel levels of Formula E’s battery-electric vehicles are lower than SkyTrain and below the City of Vancouver bylaw.

East False Creek is now significantly built up compared to its largely undeveloped condition two decades ago, but organizers believe a car race is still logistically feasible as Formula E’s circuit is shorter than Molson Indy. This would allow for a smaller event footprint and reduced road closures.

formula e berlin 2016

FIA Formula E in Berlin, 2016. (Shutterstock)

As well, the motion mandates the event organizers to leave a positive physical legacy to the area, specifically the installation of public electric vehicle charging stations. They are also being asked to offer event access and participation opportunities for at-risk youth.

So far during the 2021 season, FIA Formula E has been held in Driyah (Saudi Arabia) and Rome (Italy). Over the coming weeks and months, the calendar will bring the race to Valencia (Spain), Monaco, Marrakesh (Morocco), and Santiago (Chile).

The remaining cities of the current season will be announced later this spring, potentially Berlin (Germany), London (UK), Sanya (China), Seoul (South Korea), Mexico City (Mexico), New York City (USA), and Jakarta (Indonesia).

If selected for 2022, Vancouver would represent the Canadian round of the FIA Formula E World Championship.

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