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Relax: Electric Cars, Hybrids Won't Ruin Auto Racing

 
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Formulec EF01 electric race car

Formulec EF01 electric race car

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With the F1, NASCAR and IndyCar seasons in full swing, the Le Mans 24 Hour race just around the corner and grassroots series taking place all over the globe, the warmer months are heaven for those with gasoline in their veins.

So intoxicated are they by the sounds, smells and sights, many are strongly opposed to the thought of electric motors whirring silently into the sport.

Some say it'll ruin the racing. Others claim it'll spoil the spectacle. Here's why they're wrong.

1) Competition still exists

One of the concerns of electric cars and hybrids in racing seems to be that it would somehow neuter the competition in the sport. We can't see how, unless you can somehow take competitive spirit out of humankind.

It doesn't really matter what powers a vehicle--an engineer will still try and build something faster than their competitor. That applies to everything from a kid's soapbox car through racing bicycles right up to F1 racing. Le Mans in particular will be highly competitive this year, with Toyota, Audi and Zytek fielding hybrid cars, and Nissan running an experimental Delta Wing. None are conventional, but the sport is all the better for it.

And the drivers themselves are still competitive. Few really care what they're driving, providing they're quicker than the next guy...

2) Sound is only a small part of the racing

Sure, there are those of us who love the sound of a racing engine at full speed, and admittedly that's something that electric racing can't really replicate. But it really is only a small aspect of what we love about auto racing.

Consider drag racing. It's the automotive equivalent of the hundred-meter sprint, man and machine against the clock and their nearest opponent. A top-fuel dragster rips through the air and tears up the road, but there's as much thrill in the sheer speed, the race between competitors and the time on the clock as there is from the noise.

Ask yourself: Would Black Current III really be any more spectacular if it was powered by internal combustion? Indeed, would it even be noted as anything out of the ordinary?

Nissan Leaf Nismo RC electric race car shakedown testing

Nissan Leaf Nismo RC electric race car shakedown testing

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3) There's excitement in engineering, too

Rumors in the off-season are almost as exciting as the racing season itself, in many respects. Not least as we all try and figure out which car will be fastest in the coming year.

We don't see green technology stopping that even slightly. If anything, the wide array of technologies on offer means the engineering itself is potentially more interesting than ever before.

If we take Le Mans as an example once more, the three hybrid teams are all running different systems. Toyota will use super-capacitors to store energy. Zytek is going down the battery route, and Audi will use a flywheel system. Even the fuel itself varies--while most teams continue with gasoline, Audi's hybrid uses diesel, a fuel it's had huge success with in Le Mans.

Who will triumph? Who knows! But it'll be thrilling to watch regardless, as the world's top engineers try and find different solutions to the problem of going fast.

Black Current III Electric VW Dragster

Black Current III Electric VW Dragster

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4) Racing itself is only part of what we love about motorsport

Even if you still aren't convinced by the above, and still think you'd enjoy racing less with less noise, more innovation in drivetrains and competitive drivers, we're still not losing the other aspects that make the sport so great to be involved in.

The conversation with friends about the racing. The joy of going to your local circuit to see the action first-hand. The bustle of the paddock, with engineers and drivers scurrying about. The atmosphere of thousands of people in one place, waiting for the moment the light goes green. The smell of burning rubber. The pride in wearing your favorite driver or team's colors.

Just as the Superbowl is as much about having a few beers and some snacks with your best buddies as it is about the football, motorsport is as much about the spirit of competition as it is about the actual racing. And electric, hybrid, diesel or good old-fashioned gasoline, that spirit is something that will never go away.

As the immortal Steve McQueen put it: "Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting."

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