Motorsport has been an object of fascination and admiration for fans worldwide for more than one hundred years. Since cars have taken to the streets, people have been keen on racing them. This has evolved over the years as automobile technology has developed and become more sophisticated, with the cars racing at the highest levels routinely clocking more than two hundred miles per hour.
Formula Races exemplifies the best of the best when it comes to motorsport, their races taking place around the world to tens of thousands of adoring fans. As we continue the green transition, however, motorsport has been subject to more and more scrutiny as an easily recognizable symbol of the idolization of fossil fuel burning.
The races incur massive environmental costs from the fuel the cars burn, the transportation of the racecars, drivers and support teams, and the fans who flock each year to each city the races take place in. A massive spectacle, yes, but a costly one for the ecosystem nonetheless. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Formula One’s governing body, recognizes this. Since 2019, the FIA has been taking steps to prove that there doesn’t need to be a contradiction between the joy of racing and watching races and the environment.
The FIA has been keeping a close eye on the changing attitudes towards racing and the costs it has for the environment. That is why, in November 2019, F1 and the FIA announced plans to become fully carbon-neutral by the end of 2030.
The plans for this transition are already underway, and the beginning of this transition will start with F2 and F3. Starting with the sprint race in Bahrain for the 2023 season, F2 and F3 cars will use a 45% blend of conventional fossil fuel and 55% “Advanced Sustainable Fuel.” By 2027, the feeder series will use a sustainable carbon-captured fuel called e-fuel. In regards to sustainable fuels, generally, there are two types. There is biofuel, created out of the waste materials of plants and other biomass, and e-fuel, created by carbon capture technology either from the atmosphere or directly from a smokestack.
Carbon capture fuel technology is in the very early stages of development, and the F2 and F3 races will be the first large-scale application of such a technology. The reason why this is important is because of the amount of clout the FIA has and the attention that their races get.
It is currently impractical for e-fuel to be used in conventional automobiles; however, e-fuel has incredibly promising potential in heavy transport, airline, and maritime industries. By successfully utilizing and drawing attention to this new option regarding fuel technology, proof will be established that it can be done and be economically viable for other companies as well. However, there are concerns to be had about the production of e-fuel regardless. Suppose the energy that is being used to power the carbon capture technology comes from fossil fuels. In that case, the environmental cost isn’t being reduced but moved further up the supply chain. As mentioned before, the main market for e-fuel is in commercial and industrial applications, not regular vehicles.
Despite the challenges presented by climate change, racing continues to be an exhilarating sport to participate in and watch. Proving that it is possible to go green and keep racing ensures the sport’s longevity for the next generation and those to follow. The massive amount of attention the Formula races garner shows that there is still considerable interest in the sport.
With the debut of Formula E, showcasing the racing of electric vehicles, perhaps that will become the mainstay for Formula as we continue to transition towards a green economy. For the time being, it is hope-inspiring to see that even in a sport almost entirely dedicated to the burning of fossil fuels, they are still attempting to make positive environmental changes.