Dropped in to Silverstone last Friday evening to get an update on Formula E, the new FIA-approved electric racing category that's due to launch next year.
The series will pit up to 20 battery-powered single-seaters against each other on temporary circuits laid out in city centres around the globe. A race in London is on the draft calendar, along with Miami, Los Angeles, Putrajaya, Beijing, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, with more venues to be announced at the end of 2013.
Usually, my default reaction to any new motor sport championship is a cynical one. It all comes down to money; setting up and running a global series requires a huge amount of capital. But Formula 1 hoovers up so much of the sponsorship cash and media interest that most other forms of automotive competition are left in the shadow cast by Bernie's empire, unable to get enough financial nourishment to take root and thrive.
Recent history is littered with the junk of valiant concepts – A1 GP, Superleague Formula, ASCAR – that failed to get the traction to survive for more than a couple of seasons.
There's too much motorsport anyway. In my opinion, racing is already an over-saturated and under-regulated hotchpotch where the keen spirit of skill and technical competition is dulled by a proliferation of soulless single-make championships that are little more than vanity projects for manufacturers.
Having said all that, I'm not dismissing Formula E in the same way (not yet). For a new championship to survive and gain credibility, it needs a truly unique selling point, and in my view the electric single-seater formula certainly has that.
On the technical side, Michelin is on board as tyre supplier, while McLaren and Dallara are both involved too. As for the financial aspect, the organisers have pledged to put their money where their mouths are. They have bought 42 cars and will lease them to competing teams for free during the first season. Teams will be encouraged to run the stock chassis in year one and then develop their own cars for the future.
At Friday's event I chatted to Lord Drayson, former Science Minister turned passionate race team owner and keen supporter of alternatively fuelled propulsion. He was quick to sign up to Formula E, and is now mulling his driver selection. He'd love to get racers with recent Formula 1 experience into his team, both to bring plenty of attention to the category and because he reckons the Formula E single-seater will be a great machine to drive.
The event on Friday was attended by the likes of Bruno Senna and Jaime Alguersuari, and the presence of such drivers on the Formula E grid next season would boost the championship's profile and give EVs a decent PR boost.
But Formula E's most significant impact could be in terms of advanced research and development for electric vehicles. During this preparatory year, Drayson's team is testing Qualcomm wireless charging technology that could be incorporated into Formula E in the future, and might one day become commonplace on our streets. And when the racing gets underway next year, the 20 cars on the grid will provide masses of data about battery life in performance vehicles in high-stress situations.
Formula E seems timely and interesting, and will appear in a year when F1 is radically changing its technical rules to ensure it too remains relevant to what's going on in road cars. Can't wait to see how electric racing stacks up.