World's First Electric Car Race Kicks Off This Weekend

Formula E Electric Car Racing
Electric vehicles will race head-to-head in the new Formula E championship series. (Image credit: FIA | Formula E)

The world of car racing is about to go green. The first-ever racing series featuring only electric cars will begin this weekend in China.

On Saturday (Sept. 13), sleekly designed electric vehicles will zoom around a 2.14-mile (3.4 kilometers) course in Beijing that will take the cars past the city's iconic "Bird's Nest" stadium, built for the 2008 Olympic Games. The race begins at 4 p.m. local time (4 a.m. EDT).

The inaugural season of the so-called Formula E championship series will run from September 2014 to June 2015, and will include races in 10 cities around the world, including Beijing, London and Miami. [Top 10 Craziest Environmental Ideas]

"The championship centers around three core values of Energy, Environment and Entertainment, and is a fusion of engineering, technology, sport, science, design, music and entertainment — all combining to drive the change towards an electric future," race organizers said on the Formula E website.

The events represent "a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades, serving as a framework for R&D around the electric vehicle, accelerating general interest in these cars and promoting sustainability," according to Formula E officials.

The first-ever Formula E season will feature 10 teams, each represented by two drivers. The single-seater electric vehicles will showcase the latest innovations in electrical energy and battery technologies. Race organizers say they hope some of these groundbreaking developments will eventually spur improvements to existing electric vehicles on the market.

For Saturday's race, all 10 teams will use variations of the same car, known as the Spark-Renault SRT_01E. The vehicle, manufactured by the French company Spark Racing Technology, is designed to produce zero emissions, and features some of the latest electric car technologies.

The vehicle can generate 270 horsepower, and "aims to stretch the boundaries of what is currently achievable in electric motorsport, whilst ensuring a balance between cost-effectiveness and sustainability, in addition to coping with the demands of racing entirely on street circuits," according to Formula E organizers.

The Formula E championship series has been sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, which is the governing body for several major auto-racing events, including Formula One races and the World Rally Championships.

The new racing series has already attracted several high-profile backers, including Hollywood actor and staunch environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, who co-founded the Venturi team, and British billionaire Richard Branson, whose Virgin Racing team will also be competing in the inaugural Formula E season.

This weekend's race in Beijing will air in the U.S. at 3:30 a.m. EDT on Saturday on Fox Sports 1, and will be replayed on Sunday (Sept. 14) at 1 p.m. EDT (check local listings).

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Denise Chow
Live Science Contributor

Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.