The powerful message of environmental awareness left by Formula E. Interview with Luis Seguessa

Jan 19, 2015Press

You can watch the interview video here

By: Infobae – Soledad Blardone

In an interview with Infobae, Luis Seguessa, President of the Fundación Códigos, warned that the planet only has 8 decades of oxygen left due to the environmental impact of combustion engine cars. 'Formula E has demonstrated that it's possible to have high-performance cars with electric motors,' he affirmed.

On January 10th, the Formula E landed in Argentina for the first time, providing a grand motorsport show that captivated the audience while also conveying a profound ecological message. More than 10,000 people were amazed by the power and speed of the electric cars, which raced on a specially designed circuit through the streets of Puerto Madero. The most remarkable aspect was the absence of the overwhelming noise usually associated with racing cars in any motorsport category and, even better, the significant reduction in environmental pollution that combustion engines typically generate.

After the competition, Infobae interviewed Luis Seguessa, a researcher who for over two decades has been warning about the harmful effects of these engines on the planet. He also presides over Fundación Códigos, whose mission is to investigate, inform, and disseminate the true causes of climate change and their solutions. The foundation promotes technological change, environmental education, research, and a shift in global consciousness.

– How did the Códigos Foundation originate, and how did your interest in environmental issues come about?

In 2007, after 20 years of study, we decided to establish the Fundación Códigos to be able to spread awareness about the issue of climate change and global warming, which were already becoming evident and primarily rooted in transportation.

And since the international scientific community and the general global consensus were primarily focused on gas emissions, we thought, 'This is going to be very difficult to reverse.' Even though gas emissions are a problem and it's proven that they contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming, we believe that oxygen consumption cannot be ignored. It's the main cause of the weakening of the ozone layer.

So, after several meetings with scientists, we established the Foundation in late 2007. The first meeting took place in Miami, followed by four more. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that there was clearly an issue with oxygen consumption, and the ozone layer depletion went far beyond the theories proposed until then, which were solely related to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), aerosols, or refrigerator coolants (freons). This went beyond that and involved oxygen consumption. That's what we've been trying to address since 2008 until now.

Our first conference was on January 15, 2008, in São Paulo, and since then we've conducted hundreds around the world, explaining that the main issue is the oxygen consumption by combustion engines that power 2 billion vehicles today. The planet cannot replenish that oxygen. The oxygen we are consuming today is far more than double what the planet can produce, and it's being taken from reserves and the ozone layer. The ozone layer is the primary reserve, the main reservoir of oxygen we have, and that's why it's currently weakening.

The danger arises when we question what will happen when the ozone layer is depleted, as oxygen will also be depleted. Apart from our Foundation's studies, many others have also addressed this. In 2012, the University of Michigan reached the conclusion that the planet has only 8 decades of oxygen left - not for the same reasons, as they refer to phytoplankton - but the reality is that only that much time remains.

We believe it's due to the vehicles we use. We believe that the amount of dead fish around the world, in lakes, rivers, streams, reservoirs, and seas, is due to the lack of oxygen - anyone can see that on the internet. In a way, the planet is sending us a warning, but we're not realizing that we're running out of the primary element for life.

– What is the environmental importance of implementing electric cars as substitutes for combustion engine vehicles?

On January 15, 2008, we proposed that the solution to the problem lay in electric cars, even though at that time there wasn't even a photograph to show what they looked like. Although it's an old invention, much like the combustion engine, it disappeared in the early 1900s. Until Cadillac managed to start a combustion engine with an electric motor (ironically), and that's when the electric car began to disappear.

In the 1990s, there was a new resurgence, and in 2004, George W. Bush revoked a California state law that required automakers to produce zero-emission engines. From that point on, the electric car died for the second time. In 2008, when we proposed it as a solution, there was nothing to show, but we knew it could come back. And we understand that this is the solution, because the electric motor that powers a car doesn't need oxygen to function, and therefore, it doesn't emit gases either.

Combustion-engine cars rely on the atmosphere and primarily on oxygen. In combustion, we know that three elements must be present: ignition (spark or fire), fuel, and oxygen. That's why you can't light a match on the moon, as there's no oxygen.

The issue was to determine how much oxygen a car consumes, and through testing, we arrived at the conclusion that a typical car (with a 2.0-liter engine) consumes 700 times more air than a person in the same amount of time. Or, looking at it differently, a single combustion engine consumes as much oxygen as 700 people in the same time frame, and that's where the imbalance lies.

That's why we presented the electric car as a solution because it was something we knew had already existed, something that can be manufactured on a mass scale quickly, and it doesn't require the atmosphere or any other natural element to operate. It simply carries the energy it will use stored in its batteries. It carries everything it needs and doesn't rely on the atmosphere. We found this change interesting, and the Formula E demonstrated that it's possible to have high-performance cars with electromagnetic energy or electric motors.

- What message is the Formula E leaving in each country it arrives in?

I believe that besides raising awareness, people are seeing that it's a reality now because when we talked about electric cars in 2008, they didn't understand anything. They couldn't grasp why that technology was dead, lost in time and history.

Today, people are seeing that an electric car can be as fast as to compete in a world championship, like the Formula E is doing. Cars that reach speeds of 220 or 240 km per hour, and moreover, that achieve an initial speed of 0 to 100 in 2.8 seconds, which is impressive because I don't think a combustion engine car can achieve that.

So, we are talking about a new technology that can provide us with the same performance, the same services, and the same comfort, without polluting with gas emissions and without consuming the oxygen we need to live. The Formula E delivers a powerful message: today, electric cars are a reality, they can be accessible to everyone, and they can be just as good or even better than the cars we are using now.

– Enthusiasts of motorsport and Formula 1 still hold some prejudices regarding electric cars. Some say they sound like a kitchen blender, while others compare the sound of their engines to the dental drill used in a dentist's office.

What is your perspective after having witnessed the Punta del Este ePrix last month and now the one in Buenos Aires?

The Formula 1 car emits a shrill sound that creates a false excitement, but in reality, it showcases significant noise pollution. It reveals the extent of human folly because it involves thousands of explosions per second that consume our oxygen.

The Formula E is completely different. Here, there is a sound, but it's a sound that doesn't generate that auditory pollution. It also generates excitement. I stood in the middle of the straight where the electric cars were racing, trying to record or listen to the audience, and they were very excited to see the speed these cars were reaching. The sound they emit is very different but new.

We have to understand that this goes beyond the excitement generated by a sound. We have to understand that this signifies, for all of humanity, the culmination of the destruction of the planet. If these combustion engines continue to pollute and destroy across all ecosystems, we won't be leaving anything for our children. I believe that the emotion should stem from another source.

Unfortunately, human nature tends to associate more noise or more explosions with greater excitement in a race. But I believe that's part of human evolution, and we need to understand that we can't continue with a technology that's 120 years old.

Today, we don't use anything that was invented 120 years ago, and yet we still stick with these engines due to vested interests. The worst part is that we continue to support them, but we can't keep doing it when it concerns our children and grandchildren.