Formula 1 goes green with carbon-neutral pledge

26 Nov 2019 by Lisa Simm

If you’re fed up of reading about the damage tailpipe emissions are causing, then this post may not be for you. As it seems that even motoring heavyweight Formula 1 is keen to clean up their act and do more to ensure the sport has a lower impact on the environment.

In fact, F1 has pledged to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030. Yes, you read that right, the entire F1 machine from the cars on the track to their travel across continents will use no more energy than either it creates in renewable form or it offsets by 2030.

This is an ambitious target, especially given that the race circuit seems to be growing not diminishing. However, the target has been set following twelve months of intense work with the FIA, sustainability experts and F1 teams, promoters and partners. Collectively they believe the target is achievable through carbon offsetting, development in technology, efficient travel and 100% renewably powered offices.

So just how achievable is it?

Well, F1 cars are already surprisingly efficient with a thermal efficiency of 50%, which means they can deliver more power from less fuel. However, things will improve further as new rules which will come into force in 2021 state the petrol used in cars will have to have a biofuel content of at least 10%. On top of this, advanced sustainable fuels and energy recovery systems for net-zero carbon hybrid units are now being explored.

The results of these advances aren’t limited to F1, as there is a knock-on effect and many advancements in F1 being are fed down into mainstream cars. For example, the technology transfer between F1 and mass-produced hybrid electric vehicles (HEV’s), has resulted in millions of tonnes fewer CO2 emissions on the roads around the world each year.

Another key feature, feeding down from F1 is the use of carbon fibre in cars. Using carbon fibre helps to reduce overall car weight while maintaining the strength needed to ensure cars are safe. A reduction in weight helps as the lighter a car is, the further it can travel on the same amount of fuel, i.e it’s more fuel-efficient.

The Wider F1 Experience

But the actual racing is only a small aspect of the whole F1 entity, so what else is being done?

There is no denying the travel involved in F1 releases huge emissions and that each event results in large quantities of waste from both the race teams and spectators.To tackle this, F1 plans to eliminate single-use plastics at races and aims to re-use, recycle or compost all waste products from events. They are even looking into initiatives to enable fans to travel to F1 races in more environmentally-friendly ways. 

F1 in Schools

F1 also aims to promote sustainability through its Formula 1 in Schools programme, the largest and most successful school-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) program in the world.

This program educates 20 million aspiring students across 44 countries each year and will no doubt inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to continue improving sustainability.

McLaren Racing Team

While F1’s mission may seem impossible, McLaren Racing has proved it can be done having achieved carbon-neutral status eight years ago. To achieve this, McLaren has taken a collaborative approach by assessing all aspects of the business. So as well as more efficient engines, McLaren Racing send virtually nothing to landfill. Instead, they re-use or re-cycle most of their waste. In fact, the roof of the Headquarters is made from recycled tyres.

However, to become carbon-neutral McLaren also has to offset carbon. In order to do this in a way that fits their vision, they have handpicked projects promoting sustainable technology.

John Allert, Group Brand Director for McLaren Technology Group, said: “The FIA implemented a sustainability accreditation programme to encourage all motorsport organisations to manage and reduce their impact on the environment. We are proud to say that McLaren was the first F1 organisation to achieve the FIA Gold Standard in 2012 – and we are still the only F1 team to be accredited.

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