From NASCAR, IndyCar & car shows, ‘Fast & Furious’ shift to electric cars has obstacles

When the Saudis started to pour money into tennis, golf, wrestling and other “events,” it was done specifically to move away from oil, which people in the car business watch carefully, and nervously.

This includes anyone and everyone who makes a dollar in a business anchored around a combustible engine, which covers not just NASCAR, IndyCar or Formula One but Hollywood, too.

How does the start of the Indy 500 sound if the “roar” of 33 engines generate the noise of vacuum cleaner?

Does the Daytona 500 move you when Chase Elliott passes Denny Hamlin on the high side and no one can hear it?

It’s hard to make a cool “Fast and Furious” movie when all the cars drift, or jump the length of the Grand Canyon, in silence.

Leave it to a “family” member of the “Fast and Furious” film franchise to offer some reality to a debate that causes not drifts but rifts at Thanksgiving dinners.

“The government regulations the pushes (towards) electric are out of touch and ridiculous,” Cody Walker said in a recent phone interview.

Cody Walker is the younger brother of Paul Walker, the actor from the “F&F” franchise who died in 2013 in a car crash. Paul was a founding member of the series, and starred in six of the 11 films.

Cody has tried his hand at acting, and is a “car” guy. He and “F&F” star Tyrese Gibson will be appearing the upcoming “Fuel Fest” on April 20 at Texas Motor Speedway. They are semi-regulars at these nationwide events that are basically cool car shows.

These are the types of events, along with car races, that will be directly affected by the shift towards electric.

“There is a place for electric cars. Some of these new electric cars are wicked fast. They accelerate very fast. The latest Tesla goes from 0 to 60 in 2.65 seconds,” Walker said. “It’s also not my cup of tea. Sound matters. I would rather drive a car that goes a little slower but makes that sound.”

That awesome, powerful sound that only comes from a gas-powered, combustible engine. The sound that makes most environmentalists lose weeks of sleep, call lawyers, email their representatives from congress, and contemplate moving to the far reaches of northern Canada.

Walker, the upcoming Fuel Fest, and the entire “Fast and Furious” franchise centers around those “cool,” usually expensive, cars that create a loyal, almost Deadhead-like following, based in part on a sound that may be quieted.

One of the greatest sounds in all of sports is that of all 33 cars firing to start the Indianapolis 500; the first lap or two of that race, when all of the cars are packed, is unlike any sensation in sports. Standing near the start line of an NHRA drag race between two funny cars is the most powerful start to any event.

IndyCar has pushed to move towards an electric car; it’s been scheduled to introduce a hybrid-assisted engine manufactured by Honda and Chevrolet. NASCAR has worked on an electric prototype, but officials don’t think a competitive version will be ready for a while. Think years.

Whatever place motor sports has in an our flooded entertainment schedule, losing the familiar sound of an IndyCar, NASCAR or F1, which helps distinguish it from so much of the competition, would be 50-car crash.

It is hard, borderline impossible, to envision how any auto sport can sell itself without the noise from those engines. Or the smells they make. It’s a sensory assault, and, if it’s your thing, it’s awesome.

“At our event, it’s definitely all about the sound,” Walker said. “We will have some electric cars, but as far as the future of electric muscle cars I am not sold at all. I feel that the auto industry in the states self-sabotaged. It got itself in this corner, and it’s due to forced regulation,

“It’s, ‘Here, Ford, you must make this electric vehicle.’ We can’t just decide to do this, and put a date on it, when the infrastructure can’t support it.”

Some of this is market driven. According to a report from CNBC, major auto makers Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Volkswagen have all scaled back, or delayed, their plans to produce more electric cars. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this year he plans for a “notably lower” rate of growth.

Walker’s take on this is slanted towards the conventional car, but this is common sense here. There will be a place for both.

“Most people are not car people; for most people a car is appliance and a mode of transportation. For those people an electric car is appealing,” he said. “For a car enthusiast, I am not sold. Car enthusiasts love the sound of the engine.

“Think about the money we spend on the sound; it’s crazy to think it would disappear. Maybe decades from now there won’t be any.”

Which is why everyone in the car industry nervously watches the Saudis move away from the one thing that made that small nation globally powerful: Oil.