Formula 1 aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 and will rely on 100% sustainable fuel as a key step in achieving the goal.
The sport is working with partners to develop the fuel to be introduced by the 2026 season, when a new power unit design is to be introduced.
The transition has already started as the cars in the 2022 season are running on E10 fuel which is 10% renewable ethanol and the remainder traditional fossil fuel.
Synthetic fuel development
F1 Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds is heading the team tasked with developing the 100% sustainable fuel. Key partners include motorsports' organizing body, the FIA, as well as Aramco, Saudi Arabia's national oil company and a major sponsor of F1.
Crucially, the fuel is being developed with a view to having it eventually produced in quantities sufficient enough to supply most cars across the world.
But rather than rely on fuels like renewable ethanol, which require vast crops of plants like corn to be grown, F1 wants to develop a synthetic fuel, referred to in the industry as E-fuels. Potential sources for such fuels include biomass and newer carbon-capture technology.
Rendering of Porsche-backed Haru Oni synthetic fuel pilot plant.
Porsche is already testing the waters with carbon capture via a pilot plant in Punta Arenas, Chile. Here, a wind turbine generates electricity that is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis. The hydrogen is then combined with carbon dioxide from the air to produce synthetic, carbon-neutral methanol. This methanol can then be used to create synthetic versions of gasoline and diesel and also kerosene which is used in aviation. Aramco also plans construction of two plants to produce synthetic fuel, one in Saudi Arabia and another in Spain.
Fuels produced in this way have the potential to keep the internal-combustion alive in a world of zero carbon emissions, as the emissions are offset when the fuel is produced. The German government is seeking an exception for sustainable fuel from the European Union's plan to ban combustion engines from 2035.
“E-fuels offer such a wonderful opportunity,” Ross Brawn, F1's managing director of motorsports, said in a statement. “We’re working on an E-fuel where the carbon circle is completely neutral so the carbon utilized to produce that fuel is the same quantity as the carbon emitted from the internal-combustion engine. It means that the engines do not add anything to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”