Electric Race Cars Are a Thing—and Yes, They’re Fast

Could a new type of race car revolutionize the vehicles we drive today?

(Photo courtesy of Formula E)

Jul 14, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Isabel Weisz is an editorial intern for summer 2014. She is an environmental analysis & policy major at Pitzer College and is originally from Santa Cruz, Calif.

Though drag races are known for the loud revving of engines, new all-electric racing cars are whipping around the track with a battery motor that sounds more like a whir than a deafening vroom.

Formula E vehicles look pretty standard for drag racing cars but have no gas-guzzling engines. The cars will be used in a new series of races that kicks off this September and runs through next June. Ten all-electric car races will be staged around the world in the hopes of revving up a whole new sport and fan base, BBC News reports.

Right now, Formula 1 and NASCAR racing are the most popular, and Formula E isn’t attempting to change that. Instead, the mission is to develop a separate niche for new audiences who are into technological advances in racing.

Organizers of the series also hope to transform the way the general public sees and thinks about electric cars.

“We think that electric cars can help solve the problems we have, like pollution and health problems,” Formula E’s chief executive, Alejandro Agag, told BBC News.

According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the number of plug-in vehicles on American roads essentially doubled in the past year, going from 111,962 cars in June 2013 to 222,590 in June 2014. However, those numbers still pale in comparison with the number of gas-guzzling cars.

To promote interest in electric cars and sustainability, Formula E is targeting younger generations and taking the races to the streets. The technologically advanced cars will drive on courses composed of city streets instead of circuit racetracks, and DJ music paired with social media will be used to help make the sport appealing to younger audiences.

Entirely electric vehicles produce 2.3 metric tons of global warming pollution a year, while gas-only cars produce 4.7 metric tons. And, of course, the yearly cost of fuel is almost four times as much for gas-fueled cars.

There are still some hurdles for electric cars to overcome, such as having enough plug-in stations to make them viable for more drivers, but Formula E is attempting to make the idea cool—which many car buyers agree is crucial when it comes to a car’s cruise ability.