Cars zipped past at blistering speeds, only slowing to round the hairpin turns etched into the waterfront course in New York City. Spectators lined up at the edge of the roadway, close enough to see the drivers strain against their steering wheels. From that distance, fans could smell the burning rubber and feel the rush of wind as cars bolted past, but they could not hear the roar of any internal combustion engines.
That’s because these cars run on lightning, and they scarcely make a sound.
The gearbox of a Formula E race car generates the same whirring hum as Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder, but the cars are otherwise noiseless. Powered by electricity, the vehicles use no liquid fuel and produce no emissions, and that is the least impressive thing about them. Formula E cars can go from zero to 60 in three seconds and reach top speeds around 140 miles per hour, more than enough for the winding street circuits where they compete. Jean-Eric Vergne, the winner of last week's race in Red Hook, Brooklyn — the twelfth and final contest of the 2017–2018 season — beat the next closest competitor by just half a second. Next year, races could be even tighter, as Forumla E adopts faster cars with more range and power.