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A switch in time

Motorsport and environment-friendly hardly belong in the same sentence. After all, boys with fast toys and CNG buses are on different poles of the transport spectrum. Research has shown that the transport sector contributes 13 per cent to the world’s total green house gas emissions, and automobiles make up two-thirds of it.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2009 23:21 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

Motorsport and environment-friendly hardly belong in the same sentence. After all, boys with fast toys and CNG buses are on different poles of the transport spectrum. Research has shown that the transport sector contributes 13 per cent to the world’s total green house gas emissions, and automobiles make up two-thirds of it. The carbon footprint of transport is only second to that of power generation, and is the fastest growing.

While motorsport in general has come under criticism from environmentalists, F1 is the biggest eye sore as the pinnacle of the sport is by far its most visible component. Calling the sport ‘unsustainable’, the FIA has asked teams to cut down fuel consumption by 20 per cent in 2011 with a target of 50 per cent reduction by 2015. An F1 team uses around 200,000 litre per season in testing & racing.

The FIA also wants the 2.4-litre V8 engine to be replaced by a 2.2-l turbocharged V6 running on biofuel and developing around 770 horsepower, which will be around 100 horsepower less than present. This will also cut down on noise pollution.

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System allowed from this season is also a by-product of the sport's attempt at saving energy. It basically stores energy consumed while braking and the same can be tapped for a spurt of acceleration later. Though optional this season, KERS will be made mandatory for 2010.

In a formal initiative, the FIA launched the ‘Make Cars Green’ campaign last year, which aims at making engines more fuel-efficient and find solutions to replace or suplement fossil fuels. Growing awareness has led to the usage of hybrid engines and biofuel at circuits. From a time where cars used to run laps only to burn off fuel and shed weight, there are now events like IndyCar in the USA and the A1 Grand Prix that run biofuels. IndyCar made the breakthrough in 2007 when they ran on 100 per cent ethanol at the Daytona International Speedway. The A1 GP cars currently run on a 30 per cent bio-fuel mix; and even with that the CO2 emissions are reduced by 21 per cent.

The FIA World Touring Championship ran on second-generation fuel from this year. And the Norway World car rally was turned carbon-neutral using Citroën's prototype C4 hybrid WRC car. These changes in motorsports are significant since they increase awareness, and are the perfect platform for research and development.

But while the motorsport industry, led by the glamorous F1, is looking to make cars greener, Red Bull driver Mark Webber, on the sidelines of an F1 race, threw perspective on the pigeonholed vision: “It's good the sport is going green — but there are still 35 private jets parked 20 km down the road.”