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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.
Brazilian racecar driver Lucas di Grassi drives a Formula E racecar along the Landwehrkanal in Berlin, Germany, 11 July 2013.

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY HANNIBAL HANSCKE. PICTURE-ALLIANCE/DPA/AP

Brian Handwerk

for National Geographic

Published January 5, 2014

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.
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