Dense but durable: the new F1 fuel challenge explained by Symonds

Sustainable fuels will continue to gain in importance over the next few years in F1 – which is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. Next year, F1 cars will have to use at least 10% sustainable fuel (renewable ethanol E10) in their V6. This is only a first step since for the next generation of power unit in 2025 or 2026, it will be necessary to use 100% sustainable fuels.

F1 is developing a new sustainable fuel. , which will be as efficient as current fossil fuels. It will also have the particularity of being transposable without modification in production cars, in order to make the sport more relevant for road cars.

F1 Technical Director, Pat Symonds in has said more about this very ambitious project which should allow sport to attract new engine manufacturers, like Volkswagen of course…

“What sets the objectives is just to find enough products that we need. There is a lot of ethanol, it is easy to produce it. But when you start looking at these more complex molecules, there aren’t that many of them and that’s why aiming for the mid-decade is realistic. “

The new fuel will use components from a carbon capture system, waste or non-food biomass, which should help reduce emissions of greenhouse gas of at least 65% compared to gasoline of fossil origin. But concretely, how is this possible? Symonds says more and specifies that the technology used by F1 will almost be a pioneer in the matter, the sport being once again at the forefront of technology.

“Carbon capture is a method that we really appreciate because it allows carbon to be directly removed from the air. It is still in its infancy, but there are factories that do; there is in Canada, there is one in Switzerland which is quite large, there are others in South America which are quite large. So it’s doable, and I think 20 years from now there will be a lot. But it’s very, very experimental. »

The question of performance is also central since for questions of image, F1 must not take a step back in terms of performance. This is why the sustainable fuel will be as dense as the “non-sustainable”, but it is not an easy task.

“It is very ambitious, in part of what we’re trying to do, to make a very high performance, sustainable fuel. “

” In the UK, road car fuels currently contain 10% ethanol, as has been the case in parts of Europe since some time. But ethanol is not the best fuel for high performance. What we’re doing is synthesizing a high performance, fully sustainable fuel, and that’s something that’s hard to do, especially in the amounts we need. It is therefore a fairly ambitious goal. “

” We currently have fuels with an energy density of around 44 megajoules per kilogram. Fuels with alcohol, like ethanol, are much less energy dense, which means you have to have more volume to get the same power. »

« Motorsport is about power, but above all about power density; we don’t want huge cars with huge fuel tanks, we want small tanks and lots of really good quality, high power density fuel. So we have to synthesize it, and it’s not the easiest thing to do. »

The challenge of reuse

The most interesting in the fuel developed by F1 is thus its reusable “turnkey” character: the fuel can be used in a production car apparently without necessary modification of the engine. A point which should allow F1 to become much more attractive to motorists.

“The techniques that we are going to refine and make more efficient and more common to produce our fuels are exactly the same techniques that can produce fuel for trucks, for trains, for airplanes, even though these fuels are slightly different. Airplane fuel for a gas turbine engine is a little different from our fuel, but the manufacturing technique is essentially the same. »

On a more personal level, is Symonds excited about the prospect of working not necessarily for more performance, but more durability?

“I love the creativity that engineering brings, but as F1 teams got bigger and bigger, I became more and more a manager and less a creative person. And what I absolutely love about what I do now is that we are really creative, we go back to first principles, we really study things. “

” What we need to do is make sure that we continue to improve efficiency, that we continue to use less more fuel – and we’ll be using a lot less fuel on the next generation of engines. And we will continue to produce more and more efficient engines, as we have been doing for 70 years in Formula 1. ”

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