Lucas di Grassi drives the new Formula E electric race car prototype. (David Undercoffler, Los…)
One reason fans attend auto races is because the cars are loud -- in some cases, exceptionally loud. Spectators simply love the roar of the engines.
So what if a race was held with significantly quieter cars? Would fans still find it appealing?
Los Angeles plans to find out. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced last week that L.A. is one of 10 global cities where a new racing organization, Formula E, hopes to hold street races with all-electric cars, starting next year.
The cars would be true race cars, roughly similar in size and shape to those in the IndyCar series. Formula E also is sanctioned by the FIA, the governing body of the international Formula One racing series.
PHOTOS: A new Formula E electric race car
Among those on hand for Villaraigosa's press conference was Formula E Chief Executive Alejandro Agag, and he agreed that the question of noise was not a trivial one.
"I love the noise" of conventional race cars, he said. "But this [series] is different. We wouldn't be able to get into the cities if we had the same level of noise as IndyCar and Formula One.
"Mayors love that we have no noise but fans like the noise, so we have to find the right balance," Agag said. "There will be noise."
One reason Formula E cars need to make some sound beyond a whoosh is for safety, so anyone near the cars can hear them coming, Agag said.
Thus, the cars and their engines will be designed to have some "artificially generated" sound and changes to the cars' wings and other parts can generate additional noise as the cars speed around the course, he said.
The city and Formula E are weighing two possible sites for the race, both in downtown Los Angeles, Agag said. He declined to elaborate but said one route must be chosen by September to submit to the FIA.
Villaraigosa said all of the city's costs related to the race would be covered by Formula E and "it's not going to cost us a dime." Formula E, in turn, is searching for a title sponsor for the race to help cover expenses.
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