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Electric cars: Future of auto racing?

From Nina Dos Santos, CNN
October 3, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Formula E races will be held in city centers rather than on race tracks to highlight practicality
  • Rio de Janeiro is first to have confirmed its willingness to host an Electric Grand Prix in 2014
  • The electric cars will be capable of speeds over 200km per hour and will seat one person

Editor's note: Watch Quest Means Business on CNN International at 0600pm GMT Monday to Friday. Presenter Richard Quest is CNN's foremost international business correspondent. Follow him and CNN anchor Nina dos Santos on Twitter.

London (CNN) -- The power of fuel will be overtaken by electric energy in a new global auto race being used to showcase eco-friendly cars.

The Formula E series, set to launch in 2014, is aiming to rival Formula 1 -- but with electric cars.

Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag believes the future of the automotive industry, particularly in cities, is electric. He hopes the auto race will help promote the wider use of electric cars.

Agag wants the Formula E series to take place in "the heart" of the world's leading towns. It will be showcased in "cities committed to clean mobility and sustainability," Agag told CNN's Quest Means Business. "We think we can be of help to those cities that are promoting the use of the electric car, by making it more popular."

Formula One strives for a green future

Staging the races in city centers rather than on traditional race tracks will highlight the practicality of using battery-powered vehicles in urban areas.

Formula E representatives are in talks with major cities around the world about the contest, with a particular focus on emerging economies and Asia.

Formula One strives for green future
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"We believe that cities are the natural environment for electric cars," added Agag. "The extended use of the electric vehicle will play a very important part in reducing city air pollution."

Brazil's Rio de Janeiro has already signaled its willingness to host an Electric Grand Prix in 2014.

Over the next four years the Brazilian city will be a global hub of sport as it hosts the soccer World Cup in two years and the Olympic Games in 2016.

"Rio is a city with a special commitment to sustainability, as the recent global environment summit has shown," added Agag, referring to Rio+20. "We will be proud to race there from 2014 onwards."

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He noted: "In Mexico we are coordinating with key figures including Carlos Slim (Telmex's CEO and the richest person in the world) and Federico Alaman (Mexico City promoter), to identify the best locations in the country."

The Formula E cars will be capable of speeds over 200 kilometers an hour, and rather than substituting tire at a pit stop, the driver will change cars instead. The plan for Formula E's inaugural season is to have 10 teams and 20 drivers, with the possibility of adding more teams in future.

The auto championship will work in partnership with the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) -- motorsport's governing body -- for the promotion of clean mobility and sustainability.

Agag wants to use racing to promote research into electric vehicles with a focus on younger generations, in an effort to push the message of sustainable energy.

He added: "To make people believe that they need an electric car and a more sustainable lifestyle... We want to show everyone what these cars can do."

CNN's Oliver Joy contributed to this report

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