Even before Formula E was launched in 2011 and the first news items were written on this website, people questioned the sound of electric race cars. Yes it’s different when you compare it with other top level motorsport series. Electric race cars produce a certain ‘whine’ which is hard to describe. You could call it a ‘futuristic sound’. And yes, it’s more quiet than Formula 1, Indycar or Nascar.
But be honest: what’s the point of wearing ear plugs while attending a motorsport festival? What in case you forget these and you are going home with a massive headache and perhaps having lost a bit of hearing. Does it really have to be that loud? Of course when it is that loud, you can feel the the sound going through your body. But that sound thrill will degrade in time and will the sound experience from the first minute be the same as it is after one and a half hour? Guess it won’t for most.
Motorport becomes more quiet. This is not all of a sudden because regulation wise it has always been like that. Take an example of the prototypes running in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi has been on the forefront to develop a diesel engine, which is more quiet, and to include an advanced hybrid system. Yes, less sound got noticed, but who complains nowadays? As long as the racing is good, isn’t it?!
Formula 1 has been extremely loud, referring to the earplugs earlier. This year’s change to the V6 turbo engine has been a big step (backwards or forwards, depends on your point of view) concerning sound production. See the footage below from a F1 fan attending the 2013 and 2014 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“It’s not what we paid for. It’s going to change,” Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker told Melbourne’s Age newspaper. F1 surpemo Bernie Ecclestone responded by saying that he would like to improve the sound production. The disappointment of these fans watching F1 live is evident if you are used to wear earplugs for protection, but on television the difference might not be too notable.
Another underlying reason for this change is relevance. Adding hybrid components not only ‘look good’ nowadays, it also aid performance and it would contribute to systems which can be used for our cars on the road. Car manufacturers have entered the green path years ago and are eager to get involved in championships that pursuits green technology. That is the main reason Formula 1 goes greener and the main reason Formula E exists. There is a demand coming from car manufacturers and sponsors to get involved in something that has embraced fully-electric motorsport. Besides, Formula E targets a different and younger audience. These people only know how a V12 engine sounds like after watching youtube videos. Transition to a greener world and motorsport takes time, but will succeed.
Electric race cars do produce sound. Play the videos and judge for yourself.
Welcome to a new era of motorsport. #electric