Formula 1 sustainability programme will help shape internal combustion future

15 November 2019

Formula 1 sustainability programme will help shape internal combustion future

15 November 2019

Formula 1 has announced a plan to go carbon neutral by 2030, a move that will not only include more sustainability projects at races but the development of new internal combustion engines and fuels that will produce next to no carbon emissions.

The plan comes after twelve months of intense work with the FIA, sustainability experts, Formula 1 teams, promoters, and partners, resulting in an ambitious, yet achievable delivery goal. Carbon reduction projects will begin immediately, starting the motorsport’s journey of becoming more sustainable.

Formula 1 car on trackFormula 1 moved to a hybrid engine in 2014, with restrictions on the flow of fuel to ensure they remain as efficient as possible. Also, engines are now turbocharged, with two energy recovery systems, the MGU-K and MGU-H, taking spent kinetic energy from braking, and heat energy from the turbo, and storing it to give drivers a power boost every lap.

‘Over its 70-year history, F1 has pioneered numerous technologies and innovations that have positively contributed to society and helped to combat carbon emissions’, says F1 chairman and CEO Chase Carey. ‘From ground-breaking aerodynamics to improved brake designs, the progress led by F1 teams has benefitted hundreds of millions of cars on the road today.  Few people know that the current F1 hybrid power unit is the most efficient in the world, delivering more power using less fuel, and hence CO2, than any other car. We believe F1 can continue to be a leader for the auto industry and work with the energy and automotive sector to deliver the world’s first net-zero carbon hybrid internal combustion engine that hugely reduces carbon emissions around the world.’

Why not electric?

Formula E has pioneered electric racing, but the series has restrictions. Despite the inaugural race taking place in 2014, it was only in the 2018/19 season that battery technology was developed to allow cars to last an entire race, with drivers previously swapping vehicles halfway through.

Formula EEven the new batteries are limited to 45-minute races, with drivers having to manage their energy depletion over this time. Several drivers ran out of power in various races during the 2018/19 season, while others lost positions as a result of being close to the limit. This called into question the racing itself, with drivers unable to push for long periods.

While Formula E is also touted as being more exciting than Formula 1, the cars are slower (by around 50mph), and the circuits are designed to inspire closer racing, with sharp corners and tight tracks to promote heavier braking, which in turn drives energy from KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) into the battery for a boost.

Formula E has inspired manufacturers, however. While only Daimler, Ferrari, Renault and Honda compete in Formula 1, the electric racing series hosts names such as Jaguar, Nissan, DS Automobiles, Audi, BMW, and, from next season, Daimler and Porsche.

The electric series does offer exciting racing but pushing such vehicles into 90-120 minute races, on the current crop of circuits used in the world championship, would not suit Formula 1. In addition, as Formula E exists, any move to electric-only power units would be a copy, rather than a revolution.

Methods of sustainability

Alongside plans to reduce single-use plastics, group races with neighbouring countries to reduce transportation and find ways of switching to renewable energy sources, the internal combustion engine portion of the Formula 1 car will also be worked on.

'Carbon reduction projects will begin immediately, starting the motorsport’s journey of becoming more sustainable'

‘One of the key elements will be the fuel Formula 1 uses in the future,’ says Formula 1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds. ‘Currently, under Article 19.4.4 of the FIA’s 2019 technical regulation for F1, a minimum of 5.75% (m/m) of the fuel must comprise bio‐components. We want to go to 100%, that is the target. For 2021, we are looking to increase to 10%, and the idea is to increase that over time. We are going to specify that it is an advanced sustainable ethanol, a very particular type of biofuel.’

In 2021, Formula 1 will also introduce a new set of regulations covering the design of the cars, ensuring there is less aerodynamic drag, which bosses say will promote closer racing. This will also aid the efficiency of the cars themselves. There will also be a budget cap introduced, which bosses hope will help to close up the field, with top teams no longer able to spend millions on development alone.

Benefits for passenger vehicles

The hope is that these developments will signal a shift towards better-developed internal combustion engines, while the new fuels could help to reduce carbon emissions currently generated by the 1.1 billion vehicles on the road currently using the technology. Formula 1 pioneered KERS in 2009, a feature that is now included in most electric vehicles on roads today to boost range and power output.

F1 car in pits during practice‘Formula 1 must evolve to maintain its avant-garde character and carry forward initiatives that are coherent with the evolutions and challenges of contemporary society’, says Renault in a statement. ‘Carbon neutrality is obviously a key issue and mobilising the thousands of engineers working in Formula One and all the fans around this collective goal is an excellent initiative.’

‘Whilst simultaneously contributing to Formula One’s sustainable development plan, our program will develop two specific axes with regards its environmental dimension: circular economy, and more traditional highlights such as sustainable mobility. One concrete example of our existing approach and commitment is our collaboration in the design and development of modern hybrid E-TECH Plug-In type drives for Renault production vehicles.’