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USA: Formula E electric car racing series is launched by FIA

In the world of motor racing the internal combustion engine is king.

Circuits around the world regularly echo to the earsplitting howl of racing V10s and V12s at full throttle. But perhaps, not for much longer.

Motorsport’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, or FIA, has announced plans for a brand new motor racing series, designed exclusively for electric cars.

The new championship, known as Formula E, is due to begin in 2014.

Manufacturers are being invited to design and build their own cars, which will race on city-centre circuits around the world.

It will be run by Formula E Holdings, a consortium of investors led by the Spanish billionaire Enrique Banuelos, who made his fortune in real estate and agribusiness.

The FIA says it represents “a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades”.

Four-wheeled bicycles
The thinking behind the series is simple: electric cars have an image problem, and the series’ backers think motor racing can help to resolve it.

Until recently, battery cars were simply impractical. They were slow, heavy and expensive and had very limited range between charges.

That situation is now changing, with the launch of models such as the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric, which have reasonable performance and batteries which can cope with longer journeys.

But sales remain very sluggish. In the US, nearly 13 million cars were sold last year, but fewer than 20,000 were electric.

Cars such as the electric Nissan Leaf can cope with longer journeys
“Electric cars haven’t been cool up until now”, says motor industry analyst Jay Nagley, who runs the cleangreencars.co.uk website.

“Until the Nissan Leaf came along they were basically four wheeled bicycles, with a battery pack and a terrible safety record. So there is a need to change the image.”

But can motorsport help to make electric cars sexy? One man who thinks so is British businessman, part time racing driver and former government minister Lord (Paul) Drayson

His company, Drayson Racing Technologies, has spent the past two years developing an electric racing car, and he is acting as scientific adviser to the new championship.

“This gives us the perfect way to showcase the performance of electric cars”, he says.

Formula E investors are led by Spanish billionaire Enrique Banuelos
“People think they’re slow. We will show that it’s possible to do 200 mph, or 0-60 in three seconds.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a sporting spectacle which is both sustainable and exciting”.

He believes the series will not only promote electric cars, but help to develop them as well – making road cars better.
More bbc.co.uk

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