The arrival of Shell as the NTT IndyCar Series’ new fuel supplier in 2023 will coincide with a major step forward for the open-wheel organization as the cars powered by turbocharged engines from Chevrolet and Honda will switch from E85 (85-percent ethanol/15-percent gasoline) to 100-percent renewable biofuel.
The change will make IndyCar the first major North American racing series to use fuel made entirely from agriculture and food waste.
“It has been a really exciting project for us to develop 100-percent renewable based fuel for the NTT IndyCar Series,” said Selda Gunsel, Shell’s VP of technology. “So our fuel composition includes a significant portion of second-generation ethanol derived from waste biomass, such as sugar cane maize. The rest of the composition consists of renewable components derived from food waste. So this gives us a low-carbon fuel that’s 100-percent renewable, enabling at least 60-percent greenhouse gas reduction compared to fossil fuel-based gasoline.
“Now, second-generation ethanol, also referred to as cellulosic ethanol, is obtained from waste feedstocks, and therefore does not compete with the food chain. With respect to the performance of our renewable fuel, it has been tested and approved by both engine manufacturers in the series, Chevrolet and Honda, and has met the demanding needs of IndyCar engines with high performance and durability.”
Gunsel told RACER the performance attributes of the new biofuel will fall in line with the current E85 that will be used through the end of the season.
“The fuel that we have developed has similar specifications to an E85 fuel,” she said. “The average octane rating is around 100. What is quite different is that you know the current fuel uses first-generation ethanol, corn-based, and the remaining percentage is fossil-fuel based gasoline.
“So our 100-percent renewable fuel, of course, replaces the gasoline component with a renewable component. And then we have upgraded the ethanol content to second-generation, therefore eliminating the competition with the food chain.”
Series owner Roger Penske expressed pride in making this advancement with IndyCar.
“[It’s a] watershed time, when you think about the environment, the sustainability and things that we’re all focused on today,” he said. “These are top-of-mind opportunities.”