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Long Beach ePrix, for Formula E electric cars, hits streets Saturday

Long Beach ePrix on Saturday features electric cars and ex-Formula One drivers Nick Heidfeld, Bruno Senna

Race cars will be back on the streets of Long Beach on Saturday, but ear plugs won't be needed.

Formula E, a new series featuring electric-powered cars, will hold its first Long Beach ePrix on some of the same streets that will be used later this month in the venerable Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Long Beach is the sixth stop on the inaugural 10-race Formula E calendar, a schedule that spans the globe with races in Europe, South America and Asia.

General admission to the Long Beach race is free as Formula E tries to build momentum, especially with younger fans and those intrigued with electric-car technology.

"We definitely wanted to come to California; California is the home of the electric car," Alejandro Agag, Formula E's chief executive, said in an interview.

Formula E initially thought of having racing on the streets of Los Angeles, but "Long Beach, with its fantastic racing history and a track ready to use, was an option that made more sense," Agag said.

The series is sanctioned by the FIA, the governing body of the Formula One racing series. Formula E's cars are roughly similar in appearance to the cars in Formula One and the Verizon IndyCar Series, which holds the traditional Long Beach Grand Prix.

There are 20 Formula E drivers, including former Formula One drivers Nick Heidfeld and Bruno Senna, on 10 teams.

Five different drivers won the first five races. The most recent winner, at a race on the streets of Miami, was French driver Nicolas Prost, son of four-time Formula One champion Alain Prost.

Because of batteries' limited life, each driver has two cars for the race and changes cars during a pit stop. The series hopes that, within a few years, improved batteries will enable each driver to need only one car per race.

The series also lacks one of racing's alluring signatures: piercingly loud noise. The sound of Formula E's cars has been compared with hearing a supercharged hair dryer, dentist's drill or futuristic Star Wars vehicle whiz past.

Regardless, Formula E recently said two companies backed by media mogul John Malone, Liberty Global and Discovery Communications, had invested in Formula E's future by jointly acquiring a minority ownership stake.

The terms were not disclosed, but Agag said the two firms are now Formula E's largest shareholder. "To have such solid and strong strategic partners, we were really happy with that," he said.

Formula E is a one-day event. After three practice sessions in the morning, qualifying is at noon and the one-hour race over 39 laps starts at 4 p.m.

james.peltz@latimes.com

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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