The newly Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile certified Formula E series created an automobile race without the roar of an engine or the distinctive smell of gasoline.
On Saturday, the inaugural 2014-15 season opened for the first time in the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit. Before this season, alternative fuel races existed for several years on the smaller scale, such as college competitions or local organizations.
“Formula E is its own entity, and does not want to be associated with fossil fuels in any way,” said Ryan Peterson, a member of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. Peterson described the championship series as “a cohesive green alternative energy event.”
The event promotes environmental sustainability and green technology, Peterson said. He said that the Michelin tires have tread, unlike the typical racing slick tires. This makes them last the entire weekend of the race, compared to traditional tires that must be replaced frequently during a race.
The race itself lasts about 45 minutes. Formula E consists of 10 teams, 20 drivers and 40 cars. Each team has two drivers and four cars. The multiple cars are necessary because each battery only lasts about 25 minutes. Pit stops have a minimum time and involve a change of car.
Peterson said that the Long Beach Formula E course is only about 3/4 of the length of the Grand Prix course because electric cars are still in early stages of development and their batteries do not last very long, especially under high performance demands.
Don Cook Jr., who is in charge of promotions for Formula E and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, said that the event is a “showcase” of technology and pushes car manufacturers to advance alternative fuel automotive technology.
“They don’t even use gas powered generators,” Cook said. “All of the electricity at the event is either shore or solar powered. The automotive industry, and the world in general, is really trying to go green.”
Hari Gandhi, a sophomore mechanical engineering major at California State University, Long Beach, said that he is a car and car-racing enthusiast.
“I think it’s really great that alternative energies are finally getting more attention, especially in motorsports,” Gandhi said. “Among car enthusiasts, there has always been kind of a stigma that alternative energies are slow and only for tree huggers, but they’ve really improved a lot recently.”