How Motorsport is Going Green

As the world faces the grim consequences of environmental issues, great efforts are being made to reduce the causes of global warming. Major corporations have joined the movement, including those in the motorsport industry, which is in the fast lane to going green. Read more…

SA Oil discusses how motorsport is going green and environmentally friendly

Why Motorsport is Racing Greener

Fast, loud and full of smoke – the trifecta of most motorsports has grown to be one of its most enticing characteristics. And it is these very elements that are undergoing a massive, green change. In the last few years, motorsport corporations are making changes to the sport to help reduce its carbon footprint. The likes of NASCAR alone contribute huge amounts of carbon dioxide every year; every litre of fuel burned emits roughly 3kg of carbon dioxide, and one weekend of racing adds up to over 54,000kg of CO₂– NASCAR holds 35 races a year on average, bringing their CO₂ contribution to an alarming 1.8 million kilograms of carbon dioxide every year. Motorbike racing, like the MotoGP or Superbikes, isn’t far behind, and even go-karts have been recognised as contributors to global warming, emitting CO₂ and soot into the environment in leisure and race tracks around the world. It is because of these high emissions that motorsport groups are feeling the pressure to change.

Motorsport Groups in the Lead to Going Green

Formula 1 racing was one of the first motorsport groups to begin changing over to greener racing. Their impressive engines are able to accelerate to 160 km/hr and back to zero in less than ten seconds – using massive amounts of fuel in the process. Their speed is necessary and Formula 1 cars traditionally use huge V8 engines, making the transition to green racing much harder. Even more difficult is new legislation from F1’s governing body, the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile  (FIA) which stipulates that F1 cars have 1.6-litre engines and the restriction to 100kg of fuel per 305km race. F1’s solution to this was a hybrid engine, which enables them to achieve the power they need for the sport while still obtaining the 30% efficiency rating enforced by the FIA. These engines use hybrid technology, energy recovery systems, regenerative braking systems, and heat recovery to secure the most mileage possible out of every litre of fuel used. This would mean less fuel is wasted in races and would essentially mean less emissions.

NASCAR had a different approach to resolving its atmospheric burden – plant trees, recycle and use alternative fuels! Growing social awareness of the environmental impact of the sport has had NASCAR partnering up with numerous green stakeholders since 2008, all of whom have helped NASCAR drive change into the fuel-guzzling, CO₂ emitting sport, and it now sits at 15 green partnerships in total. Their initiative, NASCAR Green, debuted in 2009 has multiple approaches and programs to combat the sport’s environmental impact – this includes CO₂ emissions by the cars themselves and by 100,000+ people which gather on a weekly basis to participate in and watch the sport, as well as the litter and pollution contributed by spectating fans. Their initiatives include:

  • Their Tree Planting Program, which has seen over 500,000 trees planted to date, and enables fans to digitally contribute a tree to the cause through online donations
  • Recycling tyres – to date, over 120,000 Goodyear racing tyres have been recycled
  • Teaming up with Monster Energy, NASCAR has started allowing fans to bring old cans to be recycled
  • Their partnership with Safety-Kleen has seen the recycling and re-refining of more than 750,000 litres of oil every year
  • NASCAR has invested in reforestation and biodiversity efforts in America
  • Several tracks and teams have implemented renewable energy sources and are implementing energy efficient operations on track days

Other racing series to have adopted a green approach include IndyCar and endurance racing series, like the Le Mans and the American Le Mans, which has seen teams introduce sportscars with diesel engines to reduce their CO₂ emissions. Even touring car racing has adopted the green route, with many race teams using biofuels.

Motorsports’ Problem with Biofuels

A common solution to the emissions problem motorsport faces is seen to be changing fuel types. Biofuels and ethanol-blended fuels are often thought to have a lower environmental impact, but they, too, have a large consequential effect on the environment.

Are Biofuels as Green as They Seem?

There is a side to biofuel that never sees the sun – much like the forests and ecosystems that are razed in order to obtain the ‘green fuel.’ Biofuels are extracted from crops like corn, maize, and sugar cane, all of which require huge amounts of farming land to grow, be harvested and made into fuel. Farmers get this land by burning down and destroying thousands of acres of forest, demolishing habitats, ecosystems and sometimes wiping out tree and animal species in the process. Rather than decelerate the global warming process, this activity actually accelerates it – we need trees to absorb the carbon dioxide in the air, so deforestation means fewer trees to combat the exact thing biofuels are supposedly trying to eliminate!

Environmental considerations aside, biofuels also decrease mileage and pose threats to the cars’ engines. Using biofuels can increase the total amount of fuel needed in motorsport, as the cars will need more fuel in order to go the same distance they did on leaded or non-ethanol fuels due to the decrease in mileage.

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