Sunday, January 05, 2014

Electric Cars Hit Milestone With First Grand Prix Race Ahead

Leonardo DiCaprio's new FIA Formula E team adds glitz to a competition designed to showcase EV performance.

by Brian Handwerk
Brazilian racecar driver Lucas di Grassi drives a Formula E race car in Berlin, Germany, last year. The first fully electric Formula racing championship will take place this fall.

Electric cars have rounded a corner in their drive to enter the mainstream. Soon, you're going to be able to watch them race at high speeds.
The world's first fully electric Grand Prix racing series, the FIA Formula E Championship,  launches this year. It will pit single-seat electric-powered racers against one another on ten center-city street courses from Beijing to Los Angeles and Miami, from Rio de Janeiro to Monte Carlo and Berlin.  (See related quiz: What You Don't Know About Cars and Fuel.)
The first public demonstration of the car that all ten teams will use, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, is set for Monday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. A former F1 driver, Brazilian Lucas de Grassi, the official test driver for the Formula E, will be behind the wheel of the vehicle, which was built by Spark Racing Technology together with a consortium of some of the leading motorsports manufacturers, including Dallara, McLaren, Renault, Williams, and Michelin.
Formula E's glitz quotient ramped up substantially in recent weeks, with announcements that teams will be fielded by film star and electric drive enthusiast Leonardo DiCaprio (paired with the French luxury electric carmaker Venturi Automobiles) and by billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group. Other competitors include conventional auto racing teams, like IndyCar teams Andretti Autosport and Jay Penske's Dragon Racing, as well as squads that focus entirely on green technology, like Drayson Racing of the United Kingdom.
"The future of our planet depends on our ability to embrace fuel-efficient, clean-energy vehicles," said DiCaprio in a statement. (See related: "Pictures: Cars That Fired Our Love-Hate Relationship With Fuel.")
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