Formula 1 is targeting a move to 100% biofuels in future, and will increase the percentage of the bio elements in the current fuel to 10% in 2021.
The sport announced a plan to have a net zero carbon footprint by 2030 earlier this week, following 12 months of discussions and research with the FIA, teams and stakeholders to improve F1’s environmental impact. F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds says one of the main areas of focus surrounds the fuel used in the sport, with a glide path towards 100% biofuels starting with the 2021 regulations.
“One of the key elements will be the fuel Formula 1 uses in the future,” Symonds explains. “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’s the target. For 2021, we are looking to increase to 10%, and the idea is to increase that over time.
“It is a word that gets bandied about quite a lot, so we prefer to use the phrase ‘advanced sustainable fuels’. At the moment the bio content specified in regulations is reasonably free, but what has happened is that the fuel companies in F1 have largely ended up using a very similar product, and it’s quite expensive. So in 2021 we will move to 10% bio elements, but we’re going to specify that it is an advanced sustainable ethanol, a very particular type of biofuel.”
The fuel must be a second-generation biofuel – fuels that don’t have a significant impact on the food chain – which Symonds says has been selected to ensure they can be implemented quickly in order to have an impact, while synthetic drop-in fuels will be analyzed for future use.
“In the interest of getting the ball rolling and to keep costs down, we’ve specified 10% advanced sustainable ethanol for 2021,” he said. “But our ambitions go beyond that, and as I say, we want to get to 100% advanced sustainable fuel.
“The path to that is not completely clear at the moment, but in partnership with the FIA and with the help of the engine manufacturers and the fuel companies, we are looking at the way forward. In fact, our next meeting on the matter takes place this week.”
Symonds says the focus on fuels for the internal combustion engine (ICE) stems from the desire to show there is a viable alternative option to electric power, citing the fact that over 1 billion of the 1.1 billion vehicles in the world are powered by an ICE. Making improvements could therefore have a major impact, and he says it is also an avenue for teams to find extra performance.
“There absolutely is a performance gain to be had here,” he said. “With the next Formula 1 engine, I think we will certainly be setting slightly different goals for it. With the 2014 engine, the idea was to limit fuel flow and that really pushed manufacturers to seek high combustion efficiency, though to be honest, I’m not sure anyone thought we’d get to 50%, which is quite remarkable.
“However, for the next engine, I think what we’re going to say is that we want to target 60% total efficiency, and then discuss what technologies can get us there.
“When the next engine does come along, we have a chance to develop a real game-changer, where you’re tailoring the fuel and the engine together and that really does lead to some much more interesting possibilities.”