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Formula One Program Will Help Cut Emissions

June 30, 2010

The Formula One race car is on track to help play its role in lowering emissions being pushed into our atmosphere.

The Formula One Team Association (FOTA) is unveiling an analysis that projects emissions cuts of 15 percent during the next three years.

FOTA said the sport is the first to have a comprehensive and externally audited carbon reduction program.

Other goals for the future may include a doubling of energy efficiency in engines.

The consultancy group Trucost carried out the audit.  Chief operating officer of Trucost Richard Mattison told BBC News, “We’ve been able to analyze all drivers of carbon emissions, from logistics right down to the engines themselves.”

“There’s a lot of data in teams – more so than in most businesses – and we were able to analyze it and see how and where they were going to make reductions,” he said.

Less than 1 percent of Formula One car emissions are from engines running during races and testing. 

About half of the emissions are associated with items the teams buy.  Other major sources include the transportation that takes teams and equipment from race to race, and electricity.

Formula One’s regular cost-cutting programs include some measures that will also reduce carbon emissions.  Trucost calculates that plans already in place will help to cut back emissions by about 15 percent from 2009 levels by 2012.

“With the support of all its member teams, FOTA has… undertaken to maintain continuous and independent analysis and assessment in order to ensure that these carbon emissions reduction targets are met or bettered, and to investigate where further carbon emissions reduction opportunities may exist,” Martin Whitmarsh, FOTA chairman and team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, told BBC.

“In addition, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the sport’s governing body) and FOTA are already working together to tailor the 2013 technical regulations to ensuring that all engines and powertrains used in Formula One by that date will showcase, and provide a platform for the ongoing development of, technologies designed to enhance fuel efficiency.”

The FIA and engine manufacturers are considering one option that will increase engine efficiency through limiting the amount of fuel that each car can use.

Engines would be made much smaller and turbocharged under this scenario.

The amount of fuel allotted to each car would progressively decrease over successive seasons, perhaps down to about 176 pounds within fives years, with manufacturers hoping to hold power output at current levels.  The cars currently burn about 350 pounds of petrol during each race.

Backers point out that if this sort of design improvement materialized and was also used for standard road vehicles, then it could make curbing vehicle emissions significantly easier.

Emissions associated with traveling around the world from race to race could be tackled by rationalizing the race calendar. 

Formula One has sometimes been accused of “greenwashing” its own images.  The race includes high-consuming cars, glossy advertising and expensive globe-trotting teams.

However, Richard Mattison told BBC that through this program, the sport “has demonstrated its commitment to becoming more environmentally efficient, and will continue to lead the way in developing innovations that will improve efficiency across the automotive industry globally.”

“We could choose to work with quite benign industries only, and we could help them improve their performance; but that’s not going to change the world’s emissions in a meaningful way,” he said.

“What’s needed is for large organizations in more carbon-intensive industries to make real commitments… I think this is a great step forwards.”

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