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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Tornare

How Is Motorsport Adapting to Environmental Concerns?

Motorsports are notoriously polluting. Despite a recent resurgence in popularity, their environmental impact remains one of the reasons why they are often criticized. To take this into account, various rules and measures have been put in place to reduce pollution.

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Motorsport includes all disciplines in which drivers compete in regulated races. The categories are differentiated by their vehicles, rules, circuits, etc. Recently, these sports have come under criticism. Indeed, they have not escaped the desire to protect the environment. This is why they have had to adapt to maintain their championship.


The environment and motorsport

The environment is at the heart of all discussions. The introduction of various ecological standards is simply a way of limiting CO2 emissions and other greenhouse or harmful gases. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) wishes to use the recognition and reach of its various championships to set an example in terms of ecology and thus raise awareness of living in a more eco-responsible world. In addition, manufacturers use motor racing as a platform for research and development, enabling them to work on technologies that will eventually find their way into everyday vehicles.



The measures

Hybridization

Formula 1 (F1)

Since 2014, F1 has entered the era of V6 hybrids, which has triggered the use of an electric power unit coupled to a combustion engine. Despite this revolutionary change, the teams adapted quickly and made the most of it. Today, F1 cars have the most efficient powertrains in the world and reach 1000 horsepower, despite their 1.6-litre internal combustion engines.


WEC (World Endurance Championship)

The top class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is required to have a maximum power output of 500 kW. Although the technical regulations do not require the hybridization of engines on paper, the cars are largely powered by hybrid powertrains, as their performance level is better. Manufacturers who want to fight for victory will have no choice but to use hybrids.


Rally (WRC)

It is only since 2022 that a hybrid engine has been required. The arrival of hybrids in the World Rally Championship means that an electric boost of 100 kW, the equivalent of 134 horsepower, has been added. The torque is also increased without the need for more fuel consumption. The all-electric range is estimated at 20 km.


There are, therefore, very few top categories in motorsport in which hybridization is not present yet.


Electrification

The FIA has launched several 100% electric championships such as the Andros Trophy or Formula E. The latter is similar to F1, but with electric motors. Improvements in battery technology have driven the evolution of the sport. When the championship was created ten years ago, drivers had to change vehicles during the race because the range was not sufficient. Today, this is no longer the case. The races take place in the heart of the world's major capitals, which, for a weekend, host the competition in new urban circuits. This category has served as a test platform for electric motors and has thus contributed to the development of electric mobility.


Synthetic fuels

Some championships, such as the Porsche Carrera Cup, use synthetic fuel produced in-house. As explained in our article on the topic, synthetic fuels are greener than petrol. The FIA is trying to make the use of synthetic fuel more and more compulsory for these different categories to reduce the use of fossil fuels. This could eventually become the case for motorsports in general and perhaps even for the car of the future.


Reduction of travel

The FIA strongly advises the various motorsport competitions to adjust their calendars. The aim is to reduce the CO2 impact of transporting competition materials. By grouping dates between nearby circuits, the ecological impact of transporting different goods, often by truck, boat or plane, can be reduced dramatically. The logistic from one race to another has an ecological impact up to 10 times greater than that of the race itself.


Budget cap

Since last year, especially in Formula 1, the FIA has introduced a budget cap. Although this puts the teams on an equal footing, it also has an ecological impact. By limiting the resources available, teams have to optimise their use, which reduces wasteful behaviour. Typically, teams can only use a predefined number of engines or sets of tyres or they will be penalised.



Conclusion

Motorsport has not been spared from environmental concerns. The main measures include hybridization and downsizing to limit the emissions from these competition cars. By using hybrid engines or synthetic fuel, motorsport could quickly become much less polluting and a source of technological advances for mobility. However, it seems that the biggest reduction potential lies in a rethinking of the whole championship.


 

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