U.S. firm powered new, electric race cars in Saudi event

A new era for electric race cars has been inaugurated in the historic Saudi town of Diriyah. The first Formula E — all-electric — race in the Middle East showcased vehicles powered by an American manufacturer’s innovative battery packs.

The 250-kilogram (550-pound) battery packs, made by Lucid Motors of California, enabled the electric race cars to complete the 45-minute race without a stop. They can power speeds of up to 280 kilometers (175 miles) per hour.

The Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix race featured 21 twists and turns around the historic walls of Diriyah. The town was the 18th-century capital of the first Saudi dynasty and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Race car speeding past fans in stands (© Sam Bloxham/Getty Images)
Belgium’s Stoffel Vandoorne raced around the historic Saudi town of Diriyah at blistering speeds. (© Sam Bloxham/Getty Images)

Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa, racing for BMW i Andretti Motorsport, edged French driver Jean-Éric Vergne for the checkered flag. This was the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile’s (FIA’s) first E-Prix race for so-called Gen-2 — Generation 2 — cars.

Lucid Motors is on track to start selling the Lucid Air, a luxury electric sedan, in 2020. In September it announced a $1 billion agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Arizona.

There was a second notable first in a test race on the same circuit the day after the E-Prix. Amna Al Qubaisi of the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab woman to drive a Formula E car.