With global warming becoming a more serious issue by the day, it has become a moral obligation for us as people to make an effort to help offset the damage being done to our planet. Motorsport is no different, with the respective sports finding their own ways to help. In recent years motorsports have taken big steps towards making their sport more sustainable, with measures including a shift away from harmful fossil fuels.
The surge in popularity of Formula E demonstrates a new era for motorsport as this eco-friendly alternative to Formula 1 has given us an insight into the future through its use of cutting-edge technology. Also, one could suggest its success was a contributing factor in Formula 1 pledging it will be net-zero carbon by 2030. Efforts to make motorsports greener can also be seen in MotoGP as officials have began to look into the possibility of using less environmentally damaging fuel.
Whilst there is still some way to go before we can brag about all motorsports being completely green, it is encouraging to see that they are on the right path. It is also interesting to see how they can make motorsport more eco-friendly without compromising the excitement of races. Technical teams will be relishing this challenge as their work will be vital in the race to save the planet.
Formula 1 & its Net-Zero Carbon pledge
With the global warming issue becoming critical in recent years, in November 2019 Formula 1 announced a sustainability plan to help achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030. This announcement was accompanied by the figures from a deep-dive analysis into their carbon footprint. F1’s 2019 carbon emissions were estimated to be 256,511 tonnes.[i]
These figures have led sceptics to question how realistic the net-zero carbon target really is. When you consider the sport consists of 20 cars burning up to 110kg of fuel every other week, this scepticism may be justified. However, one cannot help but be impressed by F1’s attempts so far to slash carbon emissions as they look to set an example for other sports. F1 was built upon the technologies that have begun destroying our planet, so if it can pivot into an eco-friendly future, what’s the excuse for other sports?
Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest contributor to F1’s 256,511 tonne carbon footprint is logistics- accounting for 45% of that figure.[ii] Logistics includes the transporting of equipment between different racetracks, commonly via air, sea, and road transport. The next biggest contributor to F1’s footprint is the transport of personnel to the races, which includes the teams, partners, and fans. Cutting down on the figures for logistics isn’t easy, and so F1 are looking to offset the carbon emitted by transport by contributing to carbon-catching initiatives like tree-planting. On the other hand, the COVID-19 crisis brought forward plans for some event-day operations to be conducted remotely. This reduces the amount of personnel travelling to races.
Another surprising statistic revealed by the report was how small the cars’ contribution was (in comparison with logistics). In one season, the 20 cars burn as much fuel as a single, 4-engined Boeing 747 does on a ten-hour flight! Nonetheless, F1 officials recognise the opportunity they have to set an example through the use of more sustainable fuel. Ross Brawn said ‘It would be rewarding for F1 to demonstrate the technology we can take forward to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases’.[iii]
F1 cars currently run a blended fuel which is 10% sustainable. Following intensive research, it is hoped that in 3 years’ time the fuel used will be 100% sustainable. The work being done to find the most sustainable fuel possible demonstrates how serious F1 are about their net-zero carbon target. Significantly, Brawn also claims that once they’ve found the solution for a 100% sustainable fuel, it will be available to road cars.[iv] This highlight the sport’s willingness to help in the fight for our planet.
What’s being done in MotoGP?
FIM president Jorge Viegas said ‘We want to really show the way to all the motorcycle manufacturers that it’s possible to have the fun we all like but with sustainable fuels’.[v] This came as MotoGP announced their plans to use 100% sustainable fuel in their motorcycles by 2027. Since then, MotoGP has engaged in various initiatives to help reduce their carbon footprint and raise awareness for climate change. Most importantly, they have also invested time and money into the research and development of more sustainable fuel for motorcycles.
MotoGP events are becoming greener as officials have looked for ways to bring down the amount of waste produced during a race weekend. For instance, the amount of tyres produced for each race will be reduced, in turn preventing around 1500 tyres going unused. This means less units have to be manufactured and transported- in turn cutting down on the carbon emitted by logistics.[vi] On top of this, race tracks used in MotoGP (and in some cases, shared with Formula 1) have placed sustainability at the top of their agendas. This can be seen as venues like Silverstone and Catalunya have taken measures like ensuring the energy used at events is 100% renewable and some have installed electric charging stations, encouraging the use of electric cars.
Already a more sustainable form of personal transportation than cars, motorcycles can help drive us into a more eco-friendly future. MotoGP are helping in this race by using their platform to develop and test ‘sustainable non-fossil drop-in fuels’. Produced using renewable energy, these fuels will be developed from waste materials- offering an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. As a part of this initiative, by 2024 MotoGP fuel will become 40% non-fossil origin, and by 2027 they are targeting completely non-fossil origin fuel.[vii] Similar to F1, MotoGP have pledged to work with manufacturers to help make this sustainable fuel available to use in a standard combustion engine. This highlights that MotoGP is using its platform for innovation, and that the sport is genuinely fighting in the battle to make the world greener.
So what’s the verdict?
Motorsports being built upon the use of fossil fuels led to them being put under intense scrutiny as the issue of climate change grew. However, the way sports like MotoGP and Formula 1 have adapted to become more sustainable is applaudable. Not only are they making their sports more sustainable, but they are also developing fuels that will help massively reduce carbon emissions if they can be used in road vehicles. The path is still long but it is good to see that our sports are using their platforms positively to drive change forwards and fight against climate change.