In Sport Sponsorship, Sports Marketing

When was the last time you heard “eco-friendly” and “Motorsports” together in a single statement? Probably not too long ago; but this was not the case a few decades ago. It is only in the recent past that the notion of ‘environmental sustainability’ cropped up. The reason being simple: climate change.

With the entire transportation industry looking to shift towards ‘greener’ options, Motorsports would not stay unaffected. In fact, a lot of automotive manufacturers, and motorsport governing bodies (FIA/FIM) are at the forefront, leading the charge. This has led to the advent of new racing series such as ‘Formula E’ and ‘Extreme E.’

Power units are gradually turning into hybrid engines and are using fossil-free fuels to generate power, whereas in other cases the entire powertrain is electric. Another possibility would be ‘Green Hydrogen’ that is, Hydrogen produced from Renewable sources of energy. Only time will tell which powertrain would be the most efficient, and what better way to test it other than racing. Formula 1 is going to be powered by e-fuels starting from 2026, and a similar shift will be observed in MotoGP starting from 2027. Looking at the industry trend, it is clear that some manufacturers want to go the ‘electric’ way, while others have kept their options open. (Note: E-fuels/ synthetic fuels are made using CO2 captured from the atmosphere.)

Even the rubber used in tyres are now being sourced ‘ethically’ and with higher percentages of recycled materials. As per statistics, 2% of the global waste is used-tyres which points  to how resource heavy is tyre manufacturing. Tyre manufacturers are testing their products in real world settings under extreme conditions of motorsports. For example, Hankook provides the tyres for Formula E racing and has an entire range of tyres for commercial EV vehicles. This is a great strategy for tyre manufacturers to market their products with results to back it up.

Formula EOne other major contributor of C02 is the logistics of motorsport. Since most of the racing series are global in nature, a lot of fossil fuel is burnt to transport materials and humans from one destination to the other.  There are some options in place to mitigate this is through carbon credits. But, in my opinion, that is not a fool-proof way to cut down harmful emissions. The aviation industry has started to use sustainable fuels to power their aircrafts which will further reduce the emissions. On a very similar level, starting this year the fuel used in the MotoGP World Championship is non-fossil for an impressive 40%.

Now coming onto the most important stakeholder of any motorsport event – the fans. It goes without saying that fans are also responsible in contributing to the carbon emissions. Some of these fans offset their carbon emissions by opting for sustainable transport.

I would say that the future of motorsports globally is bright because there is a lot being done to keep the sport relevant.

2024 is going to be the last season for Extreme E series as it is going to transform to Extreme H from 2025 onwards. Extreme H is going to be the first FIA approved Hydrogen powered off-road racing series which is heavily backed by NEOM. The cars are already undergoing testing and it would be a technological marvel to see them racing because storing Hydrogen is complicated. Following in the footsteps of Extreme E, Extreme H is based around a newly designed spec car developed by Spark Racing Technology. This will be powered by a Hydrogen Fuel Cell that will produce the same power-to-weight ratio as the current Extreme E Odyssey 21 machine. Another step being made in the right direction is Formula G. It is the brainchild of former Mahindra Racing chief Mr. Dilbagh Gill, and has been designed as a feeder series to Formula E.

Up until now, we spoke about ‘green’ power units, now let us talk about the materials used to manufacture these cars. It is widely known that most race cars are built from Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, but what people are unaware of is its effect on the environment. It is going to become crucial for manufacturers to justify the materials they use to manufacture these cars. BComp is one of the few companies that offer natural-fiber reinforced plastics. It is touted as the next big breakthrough in the world of composites.

To summarize this article, I feel that Motorsport is a long way away from its sustainability goals, but it is not an unsurmountable challenge. In fact it is a great business opportunity waiting to be exploited.

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