New F1 rules suggest carmakers are not ready with an ICE engine yet

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team F1 W15 E Performance Mercedes during the Formula 1 Grand Prix De Monaco in Montecarlo, Monaco, on May 26, 2024.

Nurfoto | Nurfoto | Getty Images

If you want to take a look into the future of car making, the Formula 1 regulations have often been a good starting point.

Regulations mandating seat belts and crumple zones in racing cars soon led to their use in road vehicles, while KERS (kinetic energy recovery) systems that teams developed to capture and convert the energy lost during braking, hybrid cars, have made buses and taxis lighter. and more efficient.

But the sport's new regulations suggest carmakers aren't pinning all their hopes on electrification. By 2026, F1 cars will be powered by hybrid engines with a 50:50 split between electric propulsion and internal combustion; Crucially, the combustion engine will be powered by synthetic e-fuels.

“We want to tackle climate change, and here it is [synthetic fuels] a way to do it,” Pat Symonds, F1's former technical director, told CNBC when he was still with the organisation.

“It's different from electrification, and since we started this project several years ago, more and more people are starting to realize that there is a parallel path to decarbonizing transportation.”

One of those changing strategies is Honda, which announced it would return to F1 in 2026 leaving the sport in 2021 to “aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.” Another example is Audi, which left Formula E in 2021 to join F1 in 2026, the same year the German car company will stop producing new cars with combustion engines and only launch electric vehicles.

On the face of it, it seems counterintuitive to invest significant sums into developing an F1 engine that will never be ported to road cars, but some think F1's automotive partners are hedging their bets on electrification. “No company follows a linear path to sustainability,” Madeleine Orr, assistant professor of sports ecology at the University of Toronto, told CNBC. “If Audi is looking for the R&D it needs to ramp up certain products, F1 is a great way to do that.”

One of the products Audi is ramping up synthetic e-fuels, which use renewable electricity to break water into hydrogen and oxygen before combining them with carbon dioxide. Currently, e-fuels are unaffordable for most road users, but manufacturers point out that they are a cleaner alternative for sectors that are difficult to supply with electricity, such as aviation and shipping.

Some see this as a Trojan horse aimed at derailing the electrification of road vehicles.

“Producing e-fuels is a much less efficient use of renewable energy than powering an electric vehicle,” said Alex Keynes, automotive policy manager at climate group Transport and Environment.

“These fuels are critical for decarbonizing industries that you can't easily electrify, but it's a hugely inefficient use of renewable energy in cars compared to battery power.”

The pit lane is busy during the Formula 1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix 2024 in Miami, USA, on May 1, 2024. (Photo by Alessio Morgese/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nurfoto | Nurfoto | Getty Images

Without denying the technical arguments for electrification, e-fuel proponents respond that this ignores economic realities. “The world does not run on efficiency, it runs on markets and ultimately on price,” Paddy Lowe, veteran F1 engineer and founder of e-fuels company Zero, told CNBC. “When I connect an electric car, I am using the most expensive electricity in the world in terms of infrastructure requirements; not everyone can afford that,” he said.

Car buyers seem to agree. EV sales in the US remained stable in the first quarter in Europe annual sales fell 5.2% in March as inflation slowed the sector's growth. This may just be a harbinger of electrification, but it has forced some manufacturers to put the brakes on their plans with Ford pushing for its release of its new electric SUV until 2027.

The prospect of increasingly isolationist policies from lawmakers will also weigh on the minds of manufacturers. US presidential candidate Donald Trump has threatened to abolish environmental subsidies impose one 100% import tariff on EVs when he returns to office. Meanwhile, Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP) has blocked the EU-wide phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars after 2035, demanding an amendment allowing e-fuel vehicles. “We in Germany mastered combustion engine technology better than anyone else in the world,” the FDP transport minister exclaimed after issuing the bloc. “It makes sense to keep this technology in our hands, while some questions surrounding climate-neutral mobility remain unanswered.”

But not all German carmakers supported the bloc. Mid 2023 Mercedes CEO Ola Kallenius doubled down on the company's plans to prioritize the development of electric vehicles, noting that e-fuels cannot compete with electric vehicles in terms of emissions.

This put the German manufacturer at odds with F1. Early 2023, senior representatives of the sport are understood having met politicians in Brussels to explain the benefits of e-fuels, and even writing to the office of Frans Timmermans, then EU Vice President and Commissioner for Climate Action, to oppose the ban on 'internal combustion engines in favor of electric vehicles, describing this as a “huge one-time bet on a relatively new technology.”

When asked what the motivation for the meetings was, F1 Chief Corporate Relations, Communications and Marketing Officer Liam Parker told CNBC that “it was to explain our solution to decarbonising road vehicles and to continue to demonstrate that F1 is relevant in the automotive sector. .”

However, some critics have hinted at more sinister motivations. “Given that most car manufacturers have committed to electrification anyway, the only sectors that will benefit from the e-fuels amendment are the oil and gas sector, as it protects their historic interests in oil refining,” Keynes said. In 2020, Formula 1 signed a sponsorship deal with Saudi Aramco worth $45 million per year, which stipulated that the partnership will work for the “advancement of sustainable fuels.”

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicalli denied allegations that F1 was acting on behalf of Aramco when put to him by CNBC. “We don't lobby for anyone, we think about the best future for everyone. It is a very complex topic and we have to be more careful than many people who talk without knowing the complexities of this transition,” he said. “

Regardless of their impact on the road, Domenicalli is clear that sustainable fuels will play a major role in the future of his sport. “Formula 1 has always been seen as having the lightest and best cars, so if sustainable fuels are successful we could go back to a situation where the battery is no longer needed,” he said.

Related Posts

This is why car payments are so high right now

Car payments have skyrocketed in recent years due to a combination of high prices and high interest rates. While some relief could come soon, industry insiders say prices could remain…

The used EV price crash deepens as the history of 'premium' brand ideas increases

A used 2020 Tesla Model 3 is for sale on a CarMax lot on March 10, 2022 in Burbank, California. Mario Tama | Getty Images News | Getty Images In…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Missed

Trump's proposal to exempt tips from taxes could cost $250 billion

  • June 18, 2024
Trump's proposal to exempt tips from taxes could cost $250 billion

Bedtime battles: 1 in 4 parents say their child can't sleep because they're worried or anxious

  • June 18, 2024
Bedtime battles: 1 in 4 parents say their child can't sleep because they're worried or anxious

Finbourne is raising $70 million for technology that turns dust from financial data into AI gold

  • June 18, 2024
Finbourne is raising $70 million for technology that turns dust from financial data into AI gold

Here are the best fiction books to read this summer : NPR

  • June 18, 2024
Here are the best fiction books to read this summer : NPR

RBA decision, S&P record high

  • June 18, 2024
RBA decision, S&P record high

The blood test for Alzheimer's ensures faster diagnoses and high accuracy at Mayo Clinic

  • June 18, 2024
The blood test for Alzheimer's ensures faster diagnoses and high accuracy at Mayo Clinic

Apple embraces open-source AI with twenty Core ML models on the Hugging Face platform

  • June 18, 2024
Apple embraces open-source AI with twenty Core ML models on the Hugging Face platform

The European election results raise fears about the weakening of climate ambitions

  • June 18, 2024
The European election results raise fears about the weakening of climate ambitions

Kansas is suing Pfizer for 'misleading statements' about its COVID vaccine

  • June 18, 2024
Kansas is suing Pfizer for 'misleading statements' about its COVID vaccine

Remco Evenepoel: The Tour de France contender who might have played for Belgium at Euro 2024

  • June 18, 2024
Remco Evenepoel: The Tour de France contender who might have played for Belgium at Euro 2024

Juneteenth Hack brings together black artists with augmented reality technology

  • June 18, 2024
Juneteenth Hack brings together black artists with augmented reality technology