Formula E made its debut in Beijing with a spectacular crash at the last corner, which cost long-time leader Nicolas Prost the race.
The Frenchman collided with Germany's Nick Heidfeld, allowing Audi Sport's Lucas Di Grassi to triumph.
With Prost complaining that "my victory was stolen", his fellow Frenchman Frank Montagny was runner-up for the Andretti team, while Britain's Sam Bird finished third for Virgin Racing.
The electric cars can reach top speeds of about 140 miles per hour.
The one-hour races see the drivers have to change cars halfway through, as a battery has not yet been developed to provide enough power for a full race.
The new 10-race season concludes in London's Battersea Park next June.