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Electric race car debuts on Las Vegas strip

January 7, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A new kind of race car is making its debut with cartoonishly loud revving, the smell of burning rubber, and not a trace of exhaust.

That’s because the new FIA Formula E Championship car is all electric. The championship is the first series exclusively for electric cars.

Organizers gave racing aficionados their first glimpse of the car in action Monday at a makeshift racetrack outside the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino on the Las Vegas strip.

Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi showed off the capabilities of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E Formula E car, pulling off tight turns, breathtaking accelerations and sudden stops. The car, designed by Spark Racing Technologies, can reach more than 150 mph (240 kph).

“We are a championship on a mission, and the mission is to have more electric cars on the streets all around the world,” said Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag. “People love motorsport, but now they also care very much about the environment. So together, it’s a great combination.”

The unveiling of the high-tech car was timed to coincide with the annual Consumer Electronics Show, a giant gadget expo that began in Las Vegas on Monday.

The Formula E championship will comprise 10 races, beginning Sept. 13 in Beijing and ending in June 2015 in London. Other cities on the schedule include Rio de Janeiro, Monte Carlo, Berlin and Los Angeles.

Each race will last about an hour. The car batteries only last up to 25 minutes at a time, so drivers will have to make two mandatory pit stops to switch cars.

Last month, actor Leonardo DiCaprio announced he was partnering with France’s Venturi Automobiles to enter a team in the championship. Other teams include IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport and Dragon Racing, ex-Formula 1 team Super Aguri, Audi-backed Abt and Richard Branson’s Virgin.

Teams will have two drivers and four series-provided, single-seat cars in the first season. Renault has signed on as the car manufacturer, but series officials expect three to five manufacturers in the second season. Michelin is the tire supplier.

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