An electrifying formula

The roar of the crowd is likely to drown out the revving of the racers.

In Formula E there will be plenty of speed but bery little noise or smell. Photo / Supplied
In Formula E there will be plenty of speed but bery little noise or smell. Photo / Supplied

Motor racing is set for an electric makeover in which a new generation of cars will speed at 220km/h around urban racetracks - until their batteries run out.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings, says the global championship, authorised by motorsport's governing body the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, will help finally make electric cars popular.

"That is one of our main objectives: to change perceptions of people about electric cars if we manage to have a championship that is sexy, that people like, that they see people racing without breaking down," he says.

Formula E is planned to start in 2014 with 10 races worldwide between about May and November.

Organisers hope all the races will be in city centres, potentially stretching from European capitals like Paris, London and Rome to more far-flung locales like Moscow, Beijing, Sydney and even Morocco's ancient city of Marrakech.

Rio de Janeiro is the first city to come on board.

Agag says he wants races inside cities partly for the spectacle and partly to exploit what he says is a major advantage of the electric cars over Formula One's scream machines: relative quiet.

"We have noise, but it's a very moderate noise. The spectators will still have the emotion of watching the race with that noise there ... but you won't hear that noise up to one mile from the track. So it's ideal for city centres, where noise pollution is a very serious problem."

The big unknown is whether racing fans - who generally thrive on Formula One's extremes of speed and noise - will embrace Formula E.

The prototype vehicle developed by France's Formulec has a top speed of 220km/h and accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in three seconds.

That's not quite as fast as Formula One cars, which can hit 100km/h in less than two seconds.

The most crucial statistic, though, is battery life: 25 minutes. That means that instead of Formula One's pit stop ballet of tyre changes, Formula E drivers will change batteries. Or, rather, they'll hop out of their cars halfway into the one-hour race and get into others.

To make things more interesting, the second car will be waiting 100m away. "The drivers will have to race. It will be very spectacular on television," Agag says.

Tyre changes, which Agag criticised as environmentally unfriendly, won't take place at all.

At the end of 10 races there'll be a champion, while each race winner stands to get about €400,000 ($625,000) in prize money.

Agag says he hopes traditional racing teams - McLaren has already expressed interest - will be joined by big brands such as Google or Coca-Cola, as well as electric car companies, in forming the 10 teams.

- AFP

- NZ Herald

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