The Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up is once again so jam packed with news from the world of sustainable motorsport that I needed to break it up into two parts with the second part running next Friday.
For this week I bring you a wide assortment of news from established series like Formula 1, series that are hitting their teenage years like Formula E and brand new series like E-Xplorer. So lets get started!
Sustainable Fuel in Formula 1
Sustainable fuels in motorsport are beginning to gain some traction as I have outlined in past Round-Ups but Formula 1 is by far the largest, and loudest proponent of the technology. Their argument is that, while F1 would have zero net carbon dioxide emissions by the time they go with 100% sustainable fuel by 2025, F1 can serve as a test-bed for the millions of internal combustion engines currently on the road that will take decades to be replaced by any other technology. Whether sustainable fuels can in fact scale up to meet this demand has doubters but Porsche is working towards that goal so it will be interesting to see how this all evolves. Of course, 2025 is a long way away and not everyone feels that F1 is moving fast enough.
One question that many are asking as F1 works on their new engine format is that, if it is going to be powered by sustainable fuel, why does it need to have any road relevance at all? Who needs the manufacturers if they don’t want to play? As Jonathan Noble argues in The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach, “if F1 can hit that target – with the plan being for 100% sustainable fuel to be a core component of the new 2025 power units – then ultimately it would not matter too much if the engine was a smaller turbo V6 hybrid or a bigger screaming or throaty V8.”
This is exactly the argument that Mario Illien has made and that I have referenced before in the Round-Up. As was argued in this article summarizing an interview that Illien gave to Michael Schmidt in Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport,
If the fuel is CO2-neutral, the fig leaf of the hybrid drive is no longer needed. Then you are independent of the engine’s architecture. Green is green, regardless of whether the power source is then a V6 turbo or a twelve-cylinder naturally aspirated engine.
There are a number of options if F1 follows the route they have set themselves on. Whether F1 wants to remain road relevant is a question they need to ask themselves. In a recent Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up I outlined a few options the series can take and not all of them will leave them beholden to the major car manufacturers.
What this demonstrates is that the needs of motorsport and the needs of car manufacturers, while complimentary, are not always the same. Motorsport can act as an excellent R&D platform for all of the technologies currently being developed be that sustainable fuel, battery-stored electrification, hydrogen fuel cell or a combination of all these. In the high stakes, cut throat world of motorsport, a winner will eventually emerge and that is an exciting development to watch both in the factories of racing teams and on the track.
Can a Team become Carbon Neutral?
We are seeing more and more racing teams declaring that they are either carbon neutral or are working towards that goal. Both Williams F1 as well as Formula E’s Nio333 have recently made announcements to this effect but there are a number of obstacles that are outside their control. One of the main obstacles, at least in F1 is the calendar and with it the requisite logistics needed to get to the track. For F1 in particular, the launch of their recent biggest calendar ever tends to complicate their sustainability goals with 23 races spread around the world. The FIA and Liberty have assured stakeholders that they are working on the issue, and while short on details, they are at least quite comprehensive in outlining where the issues are and what their goals are for each.
While the goal is difficult and the process does take time, the end result is achievable. And as Williams Racing CEO Jost Capito has made clear, F1 teams shouldn’t wait for FIA on carbon footprint reduction as the time to start taking action is now.
The Sustainable Race Track
Like the rest of the motorsport ecosystem, race tracks and organizers like the French Grand Prix are starting to implement sustainability strategies around the world with a recent report taking a deep dive in who is doing what across the globe. You can read a great interview with the authors of this report at Sport and Sustainability with the appropriately titled Racing Towards A Sustainable Future: An Interview with Dr. Cristiana Pace and Luca Guzzabocca.
- Like every other category of the sport, sports cars are embracing the sustainability challenge and making plans at an increasingly rapid pace. The DTM have introduced an updated 1000 bhp electric race car that they plan to build a series around in 2023. No mention of giant robots changing battery packs unlike their initial reveal in 2019 though.
- Also DTM-related, the series has demonstrated a remotely controled DTM electric demo car. You can learn more about the demo and the technology that made it happen in the video below.
- During his recent annual press conference, SRO Motorsport’s Stéphane Ratel outlined a number of sustainability initiatives for their growing portfolio of GT racing series. You can find a video of the complete conference in last week’s Weekly Debrief but when asked about their sustainability program, Ratel commented:
We are really committed to the objective of being carbon neutral by 2023 and we now have an emission reduction plan in place. What we cannot reduce we will offset, and this cost will become part of the entry fee for teams. SRO has been very successful in bringing together great partners; if we want to keep them, we know that sustainability must be a central part of the company’s strategy.SRO Motorsport’s Stéphane Ratel
- Ratel also mentioned that he plans to revive the iconic Paris-Berlin road race but for experimental machinery which should be pretty cool.
- Elsewhere, the VLN have confirmed that there will be Hybrid and EV classes for 2022 and to prove they are serious they ran a race version of of the BMW i8 on the Nurburgring.
- In the last Round-Up I went into some detail about the new Porsche Mission R electric race car concept but don’t think that this is just some non-functioning show car. Porsche were quick to point out that this is a properly developed race car despite it being just a concept.
- Not only are Porsche working on sustainable fuels and developing an electric sequel to their one make racing series but in addition to the Porsche Taycan becoming IMSA’s first-ever EV pace car, the Porsche GT4 race car now has a more sustainable interior.
The first racing series to truly embrace sustainability is Formula E and as they approach a new era with their Gen 3 car, they are having to manage a number of growing pains along the way. Financially they have managed to reduce their losses despite Covid but their impressive TV numbers need to be seen in context. Never the less, Formula E is turbo charging sustainability in motorsports.
Rallying, Rallycross & Raids
The world of off-road racing is quickly becoming a real testing ground for sustainable motorsport. Extreme E have flown the flag high in 2021 and have been recognized for their sustainable work but as I pointed out in the last Round-Up, the WRC and others are nipping at their electric heels.
- While Audi prepares their new electric challenger for the Dakar, Prodrive is to use biofuel in the 2022 Dakar while Pipo Moteurs is developing a hydrogen engine for the race.
- Renault is pushing the FIA to be more aggressive in their sustainability efforts and to go for electric rallying by 2025.
- Finally, World Rallycross announced a 14-car grid for their first fully electric season.
Sustainable Touring Cars
- The BTCC are going hybrid and they ran their hybrid mule under race conditions for the first time.
- It is not just in the engine where sustainability is making its impact but in chassis construction as well. Bercella has developed natural fibers for the Giulia ETCR race car run by Romeo Ferraris.
- The MotoE Series is the quiet racing series in more ways than one. We don’t hear too much about it despite the fact that the championship has been showcasing great racing and things are changing with the series and the spotlight should shine brighter. It has been announced that Energica is to stop as the MotoE bike supplier at the end of 2022 and that Ducati will be replacing them. This is huge, not just for the series but for the fact that a major motorcycle manufacturer has embraced electrification.
- Its not just off-road cars that are going electric as the FIM has launched E-Xplorer, a new all-electric off-road motorcycle series commencing in 2022.
Next week I will look a bit more at the big picture and less at specific series. I also have some great podcasts for you to listen to and news and videos from the excellent Green Racing Virtual Summit that recently took place.
Stay safe and I will see you at the track!