As soon as the all-electric Prius was introduced in the 1990s, many Hollywood celebrities jumped on the bandwagon, or jumped in their new Priuses at least. The fad has not exactly subsided; by one count, over 500 celebs have owned a Prius. However, the sports car enthusiast was not about to talk to his tax advisors just to save some money with an electric car tax credit. Plus, let’s face it, there is little thrill in hitting the open road in what Natalie Portman or Dustin Hoffman drive. Why bother driving a green car anyway?
Well, fast forward to 2013, and yet another celebrity steps forward to promote electric. Leonardo DiCaprio has announced the formation of a Monaco-based electric car racing team. The Venturi team will be one of 10 teams racing 20 cars on the new “Formula E” circuit. The new racing circuit starts in September 2014. Formula E will represent another new chapter in the movement of green cars to mainstream acceptance. The high torque of the electric motor has offered thrills out on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Now, that power is being complemented by range, or so the electric car racing teams believe.
As those lithium-ion batteries have become increasingly more efficient, the electric motor is at least garnering a “second look” from enthusiasts. Still, the owner of a ’50s Corvette or a ’60s Mustang is not about to abandon the internal combustion engine anytime soon. However, the most high-powered of the current Tesla Model “S” luxury performance vehicles can hit 60 mph about 4.3 seconds after a standing start.
DiCaprio’s Venturi team and the others will need to tackle a slight problem that has appeared in the Tesla creation: the battery’s propensity to start fires in collisions, even when merely hitting road debris. It’s a good thing that high-speed racing never involves crashes or debris! Oh, well. Two Teslas caught fire in 2013 after just hitting stuff in the road, with their low undercarriage and all. In the long run, the Venturi and other teams may help to advance solutions for the “fiery battery” scenario. DiCaprio’s probably got the cash to see to it that one of those exotic Venturi electric racers doesn’t have him re-living the “Titanic” scenario yet again.
Oh yeah, DiCaprio was also one of those Prius owners once upon a time! Perhaps his journey from Prius to Formula E racing is symbolic of the electric car’s odyssey into the 21st Century.
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