Los Angeles plans to find out. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced last week that L.A. is one of 10 global cities where a new racing organization, Formula E, hopes to hold street races with all-electric cars, starting next year.
Among those on hand for Villaraigosa's press conference was Formula E Chief Executive Alejandro Agag, and he agreed that the question of noise was not a trivial one.
"I love the noise" of conventional race cars, he said. "But this [series] is different. We wouldn't be able to get into the cities if we had the same level of noise as IndyCar and Formula One.
"Mayors love that we have no noise but fans like the noise, so we have to find the right balance," Agag said. "There will be noise."
One reason Formula E cars need to make some sound beyond a whoosh is for safety, so anyone near the cars can hear them coming, Agag said.