Breaking: FOTA announces major ‘green’ initiative for F1

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OK, this is not the press release I was expecting to find at the FOTA website.

But in its first release in more than three months, FOTA has unveiled what it calls a “ground-breaking emissions reduction program.”

That’s right. The greening of F1 is here. Here are details:

The Formula One Teams Association [FOTA, whose membership comprises all current Formula One teams] is pleased to announce today that Formula One has inaugurated a comprehensive and externally audited carbon emissions reduction programme.

In order to conduct the analysis that has informed the programme, FOTA commissioned the world-respected environmental research analysis organisation, Trucost, which has for several months been (a) researching and analysing the full range of activities performed by and within Formula One teams and their suppliers, and (b) advising FOTA re measures that will reduce carbon emissions now and in the future.

Trucost’s research and analysis shows that the carbon emissions caused by the testing and racing of Formula One cars is a small proportion of the total carbon emissions generated by Formula One as a whole, but it is important to emphasise that this research and analysis has encompassed Formula One’s entire supply chain.

That last paragraph has long been a talking point for F1 — and it’s a believable one, although I understand why they felt the need to get it validated by a third-party. F1’s carbon footprint comes from the planes, the manufacturing, the running of its offices than the racing on the track. Good thing to realize that. But where does that take us?

Formula One is, and must always be, the pinnacle of world motor sport. Equally, Formula One cars have traditionally provided an exciting and productive development platform for new automotive technologies, and must continue to do so. Many of those new technologies have ultimately been introduced into consumer production cars.

Turbocharging, fuel injection, variable valve timing and kinetic energy recovery systems [KERS] have all been developed within Formula One, and it is the intention of FOTA, in collaboration with the FIA, that Formula One should continue to pioneer technologies that are appropriate to the challenges faced by society today and in the future, and that are applicable to products that will benefit mankind in the longer term.

Modern Formula One is and must continue to be all about efficiency – and, whilst Formula One cars are and must continue to be very fast and very exciting, it is also necessary and desirable that their engines and powertrains are and must continue to be as efficient as possible.

OK, does this mean someone at F1 reads F1B, as we’ve long expected? I’ll pat myself on the back briefly and note that I wrote this at the end of April:

F1 just has to make everything other than what happens on the track as green as possible. The greenest, in fact. If it does, that gloomy future I’m predicting might just get pushed back a decade or two.

In other words, to survive and become “green,” F1 needs to be the most environmentally sensitive business on the planet. It shouldn’t be worrying about alternative fuels and efficient engines in its racing cars. It should be coming up with alternative energies and efficient business practices at its factories and wind tunnels and in the way it travels to the different races.

But back to FOTA:

With that in mind, working closely with the FIA, FOTA has committed to working to develop new Formula One engine and powertrain regulations that will require all entrants from 2013 onwards to fit their Formula One cars with engines and powertrains that incorporate technologies designed to enhance fuel efficiency. At the same time, revisions to Formula One’s sporting regulations will enhance and incentivise the competitive benefit of further reducing fuel consumption.

OK, they don’t seem to be headed in quite the same direction, but I expect from the rest of the release that greener business practices are on the way. This, though, seems to be the crux:

Simon Thomas, Chief Executive of Trucost, said, “Formula One is fundamentally about efficiency – how to squeeze performance within the restrictions of physics and the rules. There is a growing need to transition from fossil fuel dependency to an economy that is more carbon efficient. In keeping with this trend, the Formula One teams have collectively made a firm commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a significant way. This is consistent with Formula One’s position as a leader in technological innovation and illustrates what can be achieved by organisations not traditionally associated with the environmental agenda. We also believe that the engineering excellence that exists within Formula One will have a part to play in the inevitable shift to more carbon efficient transportation.”

So, it sounds like we are stepping — well, F1 is pushing us fans, anyway — into a brave new world. Does it seem like a smart first step, down the right path? (Note, at the FOTA site there’s a download of the carbon study, if you want to see it.) Or is F1 fighting a losing battle when it tries to align itself — racing cars that run on fossil fuels — with a greener, more efficient future?

I still say that its off-track practices need to be greener than green. As the release notes, that’s where the sport can have dramatic effect. But I also realize that the right technological advancement could have impacts that last lifetimes.

Good idea or not?

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