The Formula E electric racing series officially begins in Beijing on September 14 and will be coming to Los Angeles and Miami as part of its 10-race inaugural season. The stunning Spark-Renault, based on Formula 1 cars, is entirely battery-powered and will race at speeds of about 140 miles per hour through some of the most well-known cities in the world. The list of participating cities for the first season also includes Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, Monte Carlo, Punta del Este, Putrajaya, and Rio de Janeiro.
Formula 1, it is not. NASCAR, it certainly is not. But Formula E will feature pit stops (twice per race, to swap vehicles when the battery is depleted) and some of the finest drivers in racing; it also has influential backing as well as the support of the FIA, the governing body of motorsports. And Formula E promises to be exciting, bringing high-speed racing of the future to beautiful cities along with a very distinct sound.
Episode I of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, “The Phantom Menace,” was widely criticized for not living up to the standards set by its predecessors. The movie did get one thing right, however: Podracing. The deadly races on Tatooine were distinctive partly because of the undeniably cool high-pitched scream of the machines, and according to IOL motoring Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag recently compared the sound of his electric racecars to that of the Podracers from the movie.
“The sound that comes out is completely futuristic, new, different,” said Agag. This week Formula E will release a video featuring the car’s sound that the CEO claims “will be quite a shock.” He went on to say that “It sounds more like a jet, a fighter jet. Or like the Podracer in Star Wars. So that's the kind of feel we want to give to the fans, much more futuristic. It doesn't sound at all like a combustion engine.”
This is not the first Star Wars comparison electric motorsports has drawn. In the December issue of Charged, Kevin Dukes of Motorcycle.com reviewed the all-electric Energica Ego superbike, describing the sound as “at times sounding a bit like a Star Wars TIE fighter, emitting a powerful shriek.” And anyone who ever loved Star Wars knows exactly what that sounds like.
So far we have heard electric motorsports compared with the motorsports found in a galaxy far, far away as well as the symbolic space fighter of said galaxy’s Imperial fleet. Stay tuned for next week’s Formula E video to judge for yourself, but the only way to truly experience this new breed of racing is to see it (and hear it) in person when the circuit arrives in the United States early next year.
FIA Formula E has released a video (may be watched here) of former F1 driver Jarno Trulli taking the car for a spin on the track. The vehicle-mounted cameras don't represent exactly what spectators will hear, but there is enough to get a first impression. What do you think?