The Future is Eclectic
The deeper I dig into the topic of sustainability in motorsport for the Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up, the more I realize that there is no “one size fits all” strategy. Unlike the bigger transportation sector, of which motorsport obviously has a close (some would say too close) connection, the needs of motorsport are not in fact the same. While electric in theory is the solution, motorsport has its own power and range requirements that no driver on their daily commute or grocery run would ever have. So while the needs are different, motorsport offers an excellent, high pressure, high-speed test-bed for technologies that can solve the sustainability issues of most transportation-related issues and in this Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up, you will get a taste of some of them.
Another issue is the pace of development within motorsport. While manufacturers are either voluntarily jumping onto the electric-only bandwagon or are being compelled to do so by government by as early as 2025 in some instances, motorsport has a definite short and medium-term frame of reference that it is trying to follow. Short term (2025-2030) you will be seeing an increase in hybrid solutions with developments in sustainable fuels, increased ICE efficiency, and battery and energy storage research and developments in both solid state battery as well as hydrogen fuel cells. Longer term (2030 and beyond) it is taking a necessary wait and see attitude as it is quite difficult to project what sustainable technologies will stick 10-15 years from now and that will also contribute to the motorsport show.
This also comes very much into focus after watching the excellent video “Motorsport in the Electric Age” which you can watch below. Motorsport has the opportunity to both continue to provide the spectacle that we all love, do so in a socially acceptable way while at the same time engaging with industry in providing an excellent R&D platform to assist them in coming up with the solutions they need for society as a whole. And those solutions will encompass a wide variety of technology, some that we may not have even been exposed to yet. All have the same goal, to make transportation and by extension motorsport, clean, efficient and as exciting and thrilling as anything that has happened so far. Racing will continue to exist as long as people want to race. What propels the cars and bikes will change in some respect, but not the will to compete.
Sustainable Motorsport Developments on the Track
Sustainable fuels coupled with hybrid engines is very much a short to medium-term solution for motorsport and it is definitely finding favor with various series. The Porsche Supercup already uses sustainable fuel, Formula 1 has committed to using 100% sustainable fuel by 2030 and now the WEC and ELMS have announced that they will be using 100% sustainable fuel in 2022. In the short term this makes sense. It is a drop-in for regular, fossil-fuel based petroleum, it allows for continued research into using sustainable fuel in industries like heavy transportation and agricultural machinery and it provides a sustainable pathway for motorsport while research continues on electric battery storage and hydrogen fuel cells. You can watch Paddy Lowe expand on his discussion of sustainable fuel from “Motorsport in the Electric Age” in the video below.
Hydrogen in Motorsport
There has been a lot of hydrogen in motorsport-related news over the last few weeks that look to accelerate interest in this alternative to traditional ICE-powered race cars. The ACO, in the lead up to Le Mans has announced a postponement to the launch of their hydrogen-only class to 2025 but have announced that hydrogen cars to be able to fight for outright Le Mans 24 Hours win. They also ran demonstration runs of the new Mission H24 LMPH2G prototype during the run up to Le Mans. The prototype also had a run at Goodwood as well.
Away from Le Mans, Toyota completed its second race with an updated hydrogen IC racer as it works out the bugs and continues its research. It is quite impressive how far they have come since the first race in May. According to PMW Magazine “These have included modifications to the engine calibration, which have increased combustion stability while also netting a 15% torque increase and a 9% increase in power. The responsiveness of the engine has also been improved.” There were no unscheduled stops and refueling time has decreased 40% from 5 minutes to 3. As you can see from the video below, Toyota are very strong believers in a hydrogen future.
Meanwhile according to this press release, TUPY, Westport Fuel Systems and AVL to Collaborate in Demonstration of World’s Most Efficient Hydrogen-Fueled Internal Combustion Engine.
“Hydrogen HPDI offers OEMs a fast, cost-efficient pathway to carbon-neutral technology, without sacrificing performance,” said David M. Johnson, CEO of Westport Fuel Systems. “Our collaboration with AVL and TUPY aims to further demonstrate that an H2 HPDI solution can meet the performance and efficiency requirements demanded by the market, while leveraging billions of dollars of existing manufacturing and engine expertise developed over the past century. HPDI is already successfully powering thousands of trucks today, reducing and/or nearly eliminating greenhouse gases on a proven technology platform.”Press Release Sao Paulo/Vancouver/Graz July 7, 2021
A New Era at Bentley
Bentley are looking at a number of options in determining their motorsport future as demonstrated in their recent assault on Pikes Peak using their sustainable fuel-powered Continental GT3 racer. Along with this beast they have announced that they are working on an electric Continental GT3. It is interesting to read motorsport boss Paul Williams comments about the new eGT series of which they have been evaluating (as has BMW). It is projected that races will last approximately 45 minutes with a mandatory pitstop to top up the battery pack during the race. Williams is not sure this is where Bentley wants to be. “Endurance racing is our heritage: that’s what we love and what appeals to us as a brand. If there was a fully electric endurance option that is where we would probably be.”
Meanwhile, the SRO Group is still planning their ‘GTX World Tour’ road shows according to Sportscar365. Stephane Ratel also discusses the eGT series. When asked why he did not place a tender for the championship he indicated to Sportscar365 that electric racing “can’t be customer racing.” Interesting…
FIA Three-star Environmental Accreditation
The FIA have an environmental accreditation program of which various teams and series are certified under and Hansen Motorsport are the latest to achieve the FIA Three-star Environmental Accreditation joining Ferrari. Look for more teams to follow.
Jaguar Stays and Mercedes Leaves Formula E
Formula E has been in the news lately but arguably for all the wrong reasons as Mercedes have announced that they are leaving the series in 2022. While they made noises that the team could be sold following the conclusion of the 2022 season, Autosport Plus has broken down some very significant reasons that have contributed to Mercedes’ decision and why Formula E must address these sooner rather than later. You can read the full article if you have a Plus subscription but in essence the issues that Formula E need to address are:
- The technical roadmap
- The financial regulations
- The commercial opportunities
- The sporting format.
I actually quite enjoy Formula E but take no issues with any of these valid points. If you can only attract roughly 2000 fans to your championship-ending event in a city known for its green credentials, something is seriously wrong.
Jaguar meanwhile are all in with the series and Gen 3 as they rather dramatically explain in the video below.
Sustainable Technology and Racing Developments
I have posted in the Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up about natural composites and sustainable fibers before but it is nice to see that McLaren are all in. It is fascinating how they are moving beyond racing seats to things like their pitwall timing stands. You can read more here:
- McLaren goes racing with Bcomp natural composites
- The next step in McLaren’s use of sustainable composites in F1
Tires, with their rubber compounds and the fact that so many are consumed during a race would be an excellent candidate for a more sustainable form of manufacture and Michelin agrees. Read about their plans for a 100% sustainable tire in Michelin explores ways to produce 100% Sustainable Tires from Recycles Plastic Bottles.
Formula 1 announced a new partnership with BWT as their official water partner but have stressed that sustainability is at heart of the expanded BWT partnership as they phase out single use plastics by 2025. According to Blackbook Motorsport:
To help achieve that, reusable water bottles will be offered to individuals attending Formula One events, while BWT will also provide water refilling stations as part of a new plan to reduce plastic waste and encourage more sustainable solutions across the sport.Blackbook Motorsport August 2, 2021
Driver Development News
I tend to put driver development news in the Weekly Debrief but I include these here just to give a flavor of what opportunities there are. Racing is racing regardless of what type of motor powers the car or bike.
- Extreme E to host rookie invitational test in Sardinia
- Formula E teams in discussion to create support series
- What we’d want to see from a Formula E feeder series (Formula Scout)
- Formula E Rookie Tests to be Re-established
More Sustainable Motorsport-Related News
- Every time you see Fernando Alonso he is wearing a hat with the Kimoa logo on it. Kimoa is the sustainable lifestyle apparel brand that he created and now it is being acquired by SimplyEV.
- More and more in the fashion and lifestyle apparel world, sustainability is becoming a key selling point and motorsport is no exception with the launch of 8SIX400, the first sustainable motorsport brand. I have talked about Merchant Tailor, the parent company of 8SIX400 before and this is exciting stuff.
- Nissan are working on a new engine and they claim that it is as thermally efficient as an F1 powertrain.
- In the sustainable fibers world, Composites Evolution launches range of flax-epoxy prepregs.
- Lucas di Grassi’s baby is finally hitting the track as eSkootr conducts first group tests.
The Bigger Picture
- The Green Sports Blog had a great interview with W Series and Extreme E driver Jamie Chadwick and I liked her answer to the question “Athletes often cite fear of being branded as a hypocrite — “I have a big carbon footprint because I fly a lot” — as a reason for not speaking out. Being in motorsports which run on fossil fuels (except of course for Extreme E and Formula E), you must have heard that criticism. How have you dealt with it?”
We have obviously all heard those criticisms, but I — and Veloce as a team — recognize the platform and voice that high-profile motorsport series such as W Series and Extreme E offer and we are keen to use this in order to engage fans and educate our audience on environmental, as well as societal sustainability issues.
All motorsport is working towards a cleaner, more sustainable future, and we are all pulling in the same direction. If drivers can start conversations around sustainability, they have the potential to reach a large section of the population and influence change.Green Sports Blog August 5, 2021
Could not agree more!
- I call this section “The Bigger Picture” for a reason and it is because we need to look out of our motorsport bubble once in awhile to understand what is going on in the bigger world. This is certainly something that Christian Silk has done and you can read about his plans in The ex-F1 engineer turned team boss leaving Formula E over at The Race.
- Finally, sustainability does not have to be all doom and gloom. The changes we are confronting are challenging for sure but the opportunities are also exciting. Have a look at what McLaren thinks the future will look like in Future Grand Prix: The Pursuit of Possible.
See you in a few weeks for the next Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up!