Formula E venue in London becomes makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients

The season finale of the 2019-2020 all-electric Formula E Championship is scheduled to take place at a unique indoor/outdoor 2.4-kilometer circuit in London. But with several of this year’s venues postponed for at least two months ­— and the future of others uncertain — London’s ExCel center will instead be converted into a makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

Construction began on Wednesday at the 100,000-square-meter site. The facility, which will open next week, can reportedly accommodate around 4,000 beds.

Nearly 15,000 people have been infected with coronavirus in the UK so far, while about 760 of those diagnosed have died.

In February, the race scheduled in Sanya, China, for March 21, 2020, was canceled. Then, on March 3, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship — the world’s premiere all-electric racing series — announced that the 2019-20 season would be temporarily suspended for two months.

Alejandro Agag, chairman of Formula E, said:

Right now is the time to take responsible actions, and this is why we have decided to temporarily suspend the season. Motorsport plays a major part in our lives, and it is important, but what is more important is the health and safety of our staff, fans, and their families, as well as citizens in the cities we race.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship will be back in full force, once the ongoing health crisis and spread of COVID-19 has subsided.

The current schedule still shows the London ePrix taking place on July 25 and 26. The London venue for Formula E is billed as the first-ever “indoor-outdoor motor race.” The all-electric series is uniquely capable of running indoors due to the lack of vehicle exhaust.

London last hosted the ePrix in July 2016 on a track at Battersea Park.

The last race in the series for this season was run on February 29, in Marrakech, Morocco. According to the Formula E website, the Rome, Paris, Seoul, and Jakarta races are currently postponed until further notice. Italy is one of the hotspots for the coronavirus, so Rome’s participation in the championship is highly doubtful.

The series, if it resumes as currently planned, would return on June 21, in Berlin. That would be followed by New York on July 11 before running in London.

The original plan was for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to drive a Formula E car at the New York event. Those plans were canceled.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.