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Electric 'Formula E' motor series to launch in 2014

updated 9:47 AM EDT, Wed August 29, 2012
French driver Alexandre Premat drives the electrical EFO1 Formula at Le Mans circuit, western France on September 24, 2010.
French driver Alexandre Premat drives the electrical EFO1 Formula at Le Mans circuit, western France on September 24, 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FIA president Jean Todt signs agreement to launch series in 2014
  • Electric car competition will be focused on city-center tracks
  • Brazil's Rio de Janeiro is the first host city to sign up
  • Todt says new series will attract a "younger audience" to motorsport

(CNN) -- A new global racing series is launching with hopes of rivaling Formula One, but there is one major difference -- the cars will all have electric engines.

The Formula E series has been backed by Jean Todt, president of motorsport's world governing body the Federation Internationale del'Automobile (FIA).

The former Ferrari F1 chief has signed an agreement with a group of investors to stage a series of races on city-center tracks.

The investors, who already have Rio de Janeiro signed up as a host city, plan to have 10 teams and 20 drivers ready to race in 2014, following a year of testing.

"This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience," Todt told the FIA website.

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"This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share the FIA values and objectives of clean energy, mobility and sustainability with a wider and younger audience as well."

Formula E's cars will be based around a prototype designed by French company Formulec. The 780 kg vehicles will have a maximum speed of 220 kmh (137 mph) and run on a lithium-iron battery that can provide 25 minutes' racing.

The chairman of the new series will be Alejandro Agag, who already supports teams in the FIA's GP2 and GP3 series.

"We see this as a great opportunity to create a new and exciting spectacle mixing racing, clean energy and sustainability, looking to the future," Agag said.

"We expect this championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities."

The FIA has been eager to encourage motorsport to lead the motor industry in harnessing the potential of electric engines, with innovations such as the KERS system -- which harnesses braking energy to provide an engine boost every lap -- already being adapted to mass production cars. From 2014, Formula One pit lanes will have to be electric only.

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