Formula E race cars look similar to the open-wheel, Formula One design we're already familiar with.

Courtesy of Formula E

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Most people have heard of Formula One racing, with its pointy-nosed, open-wheeled race cars. There's also a Formula Two and Formula Three series with similar cars but different rules and regulations. And now, there's Formula E -- with the same pointy nose, the same open-wheel design and a completely different power source.

The "E" is obviously for "electric," and these all-electric cars will be tearing up the street tracks beginning in 2014. According to Formula E, however, the "E" also stands for "exciting, efficiency, environment, and last but not least, a new era." It can also, they say, stand for "entertainment." I think we, the fans, will be the judge of that, thank you very much.

What we do know is that it's is run by Formula E Holdings (FEH), and that they've got some pretty compelling reasons for firing up an all-electric race series. FEH feels strongly that automotive emissions are contributing to global climate change, and they want to showcase a zero-emissions race field and at the same time drive home the point that electric cars are fast, reliable and safe.

FEH isn't the first outfit to come up with this idea. The National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA) has been silently beating gassers on the drag strip since 1997, and the TTXGP electric motorcycle race ran its inaugural event on the Isle of Man in 2009.

This is, however, the first series to attempt to cash in on the international cache of Formula racing. So let's poke around under the hood a bit to see what this series runs on.