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15 September 2014

Fully electric Formula E opens in Beijing

The world’s first fully electric motor racing series, featuring battery-powered cars, was launched in Beijing on Saturday and the move could inspire groundbreaking innovations in electric vehicle technology.

The opening season of Formula E will feature 10-races on an international circuit with the finale scheduled for London in June 2015.

It is supported by motorsport's governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and the creators and team owners are aiming to make significant progress in the development of electric car technology.

Saturday’s Beijing ePrix took place at the Olympic Park, venue of the 2008 Olympics, and the cars made 25 laps on the 3.44-kilometer course in front of a reported crowd of 75,000.

An estimated 40 million viewers tuned in top watch the race on television.

The new series was contrived by FIA president, Jean Todt, and Spanish businessman, Alejandro Agag, in 2011.

Sir Richard Branson, four-time Formula One champion Alain Prost, and Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio are among the team owners.

Drivers included Prost’s son Nicolas, and the nephew of racing legend Ayrton Senna, Bruno.

The drivers all raced a version of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, which is equipped with a battery weighing nearly 800 pounds and has enough power for 20 to 30 minutes of hard racing.

The cars can reach speeds of 225 km/h (140 mph) and can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds but the drivers had to change vehicle halfway through the race due to lack of battery power.

Agag, CEO of Formula E, said: "Two years ago the FIA had a vision of creating a championship which has close racing, entertainment and sustainability at its heart. This weekend, that vision became a reality. To see 20 fully electric cars racing towards the first corner was a very special moment for me and for everyone involved. We truly believe this weekend marks a new era of motorsport that embraces sustainable mobility and we are incredibly grateful to all our investors, teams, drivers, partners, event operators, personnel, and of course the FIA, for helping us make this such a success."

The inaugural race of the series ended in dramatic fashion as a crash at the last turn of the final lap involving the leading cars of Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld allowed Brazilian Lucas di Grassi of the Audi Sport ABT team to win.

Prost and Heidfeld were unscathed after the collision.

A new gimmick called the FanBoost allows fans to vote for their favourite drivers with the top three receiving a two and a half second power boost.

China is aiming to put five million electric cars on the road by 2020 in an effort to reduce pollution and reports suggest that the Chinese government was keen to host the race to promote electric cars.

The championship now heads to Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 22 November, before stopping at Miami, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo and Berlin, before concluding in London's Battersea Park on 27 June next year.

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