Roy Gilbert

With A Whirr, Not A Roar, Auto Racing Drives Toward An Electric Future

Earlier this month, two dozen low-slung, open-cockpit race cars sped around the streets of Red Hook in Brooklyn.

A distinct high-pitched whizzing sound pierced the air, instead of the usual growl of revved-up race car engines. That’s because these cars were powered entirely by batteries rather than gasoline.

Welcome to Formula E. It’s like Formula 1, but it’s all-electric.

“Combustion engines are over,” Alberto Longo, the co-founder of Formula E, said in early July. “End of story.”

Formula E has declared itself the future of racing. At a time when virtually the entire auto industry is embracing the electric vehicle, it’s not considered quite as wild of an assertion, though it was seen as a bit of an oddity when the motorsport first launched in 2014 .

As electric vehicles race toward the mainstream, the technology has been improving rapidly.

And Formula E is helping to accelerate that progress, the race organizers argue, by serving as an incubator for improved technology – from more efficient motors to faster chargers – that will eventually wind up in ordinary vehicles.”Every four years we need to change, because technology is advancing so quickly,” Longo says. “Every four years your technology is obsolete.” Charging cars in seconds? It’s in the works When Formula E first launched, the batteries in the cars couldn’t last for an entire 45-minute race — so drivers stopped halfway through and swapped cars for a new vehicle with a full charge.Now the event is on its second generation of vehicles. This time, the battery can […]