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“My lifeblood: The future is now”

Lucas di Grassi is Formula E’s most successful racing driver. But the Audi driver is also a champion for the electrification of mobility away from the racetrack. In this interview, he tells us about his drive for a better tomorrow for all, the mobility revolution and his children’s future.

17.02.2021 Interview: Frieder Pfeiffer - Photo: Ramon Haindl Reading Time: 8 min

View through the Audi e-tron GT quattro at Lucas di Grassi

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets.

Lucas di Grassi, let’s take a look at your past to find out about your passion for the future. Where did your irrepressible desire to shape tomorrow start?

I have always believed that people have a moral and social duty to constantly strive to improve things in their field. Taking me as an example, motorsport has been my passion since I was a child. And at some point, I became aware that racing can also be a platform for promoting technology; a platform for inspiring people and enhancing their experience of mobility.

 

When did you first put this idea into practice?

I founded my first NGO when I was 22. I realized that I drove much more efficiently – and more fuel-efficiently – than other members of my family. So, I wanted to give other people specific driving tips on how they could improve their driving practices. It was a small project, but was infused with the same spirit as my more recent projects. I want to use my knowledge of mobility and the technology behind it  create awareness and inspire people to develop more efficient technologies.

I want to create awareness and inspire people.

Why is this so important to you?

My family is descended from Italian immigrants in Brazil. So, my background is Italian – 91 percent of my genes to be exact, I had that tested once. When my great-grandfather came to Brazil, the family was already middle class. My father worked very hard and our social standing continued to improve. I am very lucky that I have never had to worry. I grew up in a great environment. At the same time, I always felt the need to give something back. That motivates me. That’s why I want to help shape the future, to make the world a better place through technology and innovation. I always wanted to be successful. But if you’re successful without making a contribution to society, that’s not sustainable. That’s not a true legacy. And one more thing ...

 

Go on.

One problem with society is that people are all still starting from completely different points. I think that the world’s problems fundamentally come down to the fact that there is no equality of opportunity. If you’re born in the favelas of Brazil, it is possible to work your way up, but it’s much harder. At the same time, everyone is just different, and that’s beautiful. Everyone can bring their preferences and strengths to the table. That’s what I try to do every day. I’m a very inquisitive guy. I try to understand how the world works. If I see something I don’t understand, I ask about it. I also read a lot, especially about subjects I’m not an expert in. I try to understand things objectively and become a better person.

Lucas di Grassi looks at the rear of the Audi e-tron GT quattro.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets. The decal of the vehicle illustrated is currently not available either as standard or optional equipment.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets. The decal of the vehicle illustrated is currently not available either as standard or optional equipment.

So, you don’t mind going beyond your comfort zone?

I always ask “why?” when I learn something new. People are often very shallow – they accept the world as it is and don’t think any further than that. Yet there are always much more efficient ways to do things. So, I always question what the primary goal of a product or process is. Is there room for improvement? And if we can optimize it ourselves, what technologies can we use to do that? And if those technologies don’t exist, how can we develop them? In this change process, at first you feel like you’re going crazy because there seems to be so much to do. But then it just becomes very interesting. And that’s where I always want to be. That’s my lifeblood: The future is now.

 

And how do you learn to identify potential?

It helps to be knowledgeable about a subject. The more you know about a technology, the more obvious it becomes where things are headed and what the future will look like. Take electric mobility. In 2007, I didn’t yet have a sense that everything would go electric. But by the time I joined Audi in 2012, it had all become clearer. There were hybrids. And battery quality had evolved. There was an idea of where the technology was going and the creation of Formula E and our efforts to win people over were rewarded with success. In the meantime, I’m delighted that people are realizing that the future of electric vehicles will be here faster than many had thought. It’s often like that. Disruptive technologies develop at an exponential rate – as was the case for mobile phones, the Internet, television. Electric mobility still faces challenges. We have overcome the perception problem because we have shown with Formula E that electric mobility can be sexy. Many manufacturers are building on electric mobility. Not long ago, they were laughing about Formula E. Today, many want to be part of it.

 

Could the electric mobility revolution still be stopped?

No. The future is here – and it’s bright. There’s no debate. And I’ll tell you why. It’s not a question of whether I prefer red or yellow. Electric mobility is not a matter of taste – it is a fact. The future is electric – for everything, by the way. Okay, maybe not rockets, because the principle is different there. But at some point even airplanes can potentially be electrically powered.

Electric mobility is not a matter of taste – it is a fact.

Is there anything that doesn’t interest you?

Probably not much. But natural sciences actually interest me more than social sciences. I want to know what are the underlying structures that govern the world, that influence human behavior? I try to stay on top of technology, especially in the field of physics and even mathematics. Where should society be headed? And how can I make sure it moves in that direction?

 

You’re currently moving into the future with an Audi e-tron GT quattro.

I really like it. It’s a car that a lot of people dream about, a premium product that only a few are able to own. It’s a thing to adore, something that gets people passionate about technology. People see that sustainability stemming from zero direct emissions and performance can go hand in hand, that they are not mutually exclusive. The Audi e-tron GT quattro alone will not change the world. But it creates aspirations. People see what the technology is capable of. That’s how electric mobility will become mainstream. And how we can change the world. It’s the same with Formula E. These innovations are inspiring, they help society understand how technology is moving humanity forward. They make the mobility of the future tangible – and therefore a reality.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets.

You’ve been a UN Climate Ambassador since 2018. How has it changed your life?

It gives me credibility. But the title itself doesn’t mean anything. It’s not an achievement per se. When I’m at home staring at the wall, I’m not making a difference. I need to be proactive, network, talk to leaders and increase my impact. That role needs to be filled – and that’s what I’m trying to do. It fits very well with my philosophy in life. I want to spread my message effectively.

 

You’re 36 and you’ve already accomplished an incredible amount. You could take it easy. But that’s not who you are, is it?

I have many goals. I’m in the process of building a family. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son and my daughter will be born in February. So, the family is getting bigger, which is a major challenge. Apart from a couple of goals in motorsport, my main concern is raising my children well. Again, I read a lot about it and try to educate myself. Parenting is very tricky. There are no clear scientific guidelines. Everyone needs to be motivated in their own particular way. As a father, I have the opportunity to guide my children’s development in the direction that I think is right. I want to raise them to love science, just as I do. I also want them to be filled with curiosity about the future. I just published a children’s book that I wrote. In my book, the pigs are in space. The story is about hard work and its sustainable effect. The pig that had foresight and worked the hardest saves the other two pigs. That’s what it’s so often about: dedication and foresight.

Looking through the windshield into the eyes of Lucas di Grassi.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets. The decal of the vehicle illustrated is currently not available either as standard or optional equipment.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets. The decal of the vehicle illustrated is currently not available either as standard or optional equipment.

Audi e-tron GT quattro

Get to know the Audi e-tron GT quattro in your country

The Audi e-tron GT quattro provides clear insights into the mobility of tomorrow from the brand with the Four Rings. Learn more about the four-door coupé’s future-ready design.

Discover more

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets.

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

European model shown. Specifications may vary. Stated specifications not applicable to all markets.

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