The first ever electric car race in the United States will take place this weekend in Miami where downtown streets have been converted into a race track. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: Downtown Miami has been converted into a race track. Cement blocks, fencing and grandstands are all in place for the first electric car race ever held on U.S. soil. Miami is the fifth of ten cities around the world to host during the inaugural year of the Formula E Championship, a fully electric race car series. Teams of mechanics are preparing their electric cars for Saturday's race. March Schneider from Team Audi ABT says Formula E is in many ways similar to Formula 1. The cars are fast, the suspense on race day is high, but instead of the roar of a gasoline powered engines, these electric cars let out a high pitched hum as they barrel down the track. Schneider says pits stop are a bit different as well. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARK SCHNEIDER, AUDI SPORT ABT, SAYING: "We do a pit stops like other racing series but when formula 1 changes tires we change cars. So we have two cars for each driver and after roughly half an hour the driver gets into the pits, jumps out of the car, jumps into another car and goes out again." Each car is powered by a massive lithium ion battery that makes up a third of the cars overall weight. Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag says with time those batteries will become more efficient and smaller allowing them to power a single car for an entire race. He says the concept behind formula E is to drive research and development in the electric automotive space to new heights. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALEJANDRO AGAG, CEO, FORMULA E, SAYING: "Formula 1, Indy Car, NASCAR are places where new technologies have been developed that then have been used on road cars and we want Formula E to be the place that happens for the electric car." Along with innovations on the track, Agag says he wants to attract young fans to Formula E by utilizing technology off the track as well. He says plans are in the works to develop an interactive virtual track that will allow people to compete on race day from their homes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALEJANDRO AGAG, CEO, FORMULA E, SAYING: "So if you are a kid at home you can play with the virtual car, a shadow car, against the real racers in real time." Agag says that if Formula E fast tracks innovation while raising awareness to the benefits of electric cars - everybody is a winner come race day.