When Formula 1 cars go racing in the middle of this decade, they could run on 100%powering their internal-combustion engines. This type of fuel could be a complimentary game-changer, reducing emissions in not just race cars taking apexes full-throttle, but from F1’s position at the pinnacle of the global auto industry, it could trickle down to everyday vehicles, planes and even cargo ships.
F1’s Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds on Tuesday spoke about the proposed fuel and the sport’s commitment to sustainability, saying this fuel will be “drop-in” ready. In other words, there will be no need to modify a race car’s current engine one bit (though F1 is due a new kind of engine in 2025). F1 is still hashing out all the ways it plans to derive its renewable fuel, but it’s preparing to include anything from municipal waste, nonfood biomass and, most incredibly, carbon-capture technologies. When an F1 car burns this renewable fuel, Symonds and his team expect the emissions savings to be at least 65% better than burning traditional gasoline.
Now, to be clear, burning renewable fuel still creates carbon dioxide as a byproduct, and requires energy in its production. However, Symonds explained there’s no net CO2 created. “It’s a totally circular thing,” he said. “We’re not producing any CO2 that is not already in the atmosphere at the moment; we’re taking it out of the atmosphere, we’re using it, and we’re putting it back in the atmosphere.” Essentially, the CO2 the sources create would have entered (or did enter) the atmosphere anyway. F1 wants to put these sources to better use. Or, in the case of carbon capture, take it out and use it again.
The overarching goal is to decarbonize many sectors of the world and economies, but a sustainable fuel source would still be a massive deal. While it’s likely we’ll soon see more electric cars reduce emissions from public roads, each EV still comes with a carbon footprint. Mining processes, refining and manufacturing all contribute to carbon output for the car and its battery, albeit far less than the similar processes used to create and burn fossil fuels. But if trucks, planes, boats and other heavy transportation ran onemitting 65% fewer emissions, we could start to see some real progress, especially during the useful life of existing internal-combustion engine vehicles. Perhaps motorsport will help us get there.