Teams have cut carbon emissions, says FOTA study

2013 F1 season

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F1 teams cut their carbon emissions by 7% between 2009 and 2011 according to a report commissioned by the Formula One Teams Association.

Exhaust emissions of carbon from F1 cars fell by 24% during this time, according to the report. But carbon emitted directly from the cars during races and testing accounted for a mere 0.2% of total emissions.

The expansion of the F1 calendar and increased proportion of flyway races meant emissions due to business travel rose by 38.8%.

According to the report operational fuel use increased by 25.8% partly due to the arrival of the Virgin team (now Marussia) in 2010, who use fuel oil instead of electricity for their high performance computing systems such as Computational Fluid Dynamics. The team was originally wholly dependent on CFD for its aerodynamic development, eschewing the use of a wind tunnel, before abandoning that approach in 2011.

All F1 teams including the four not currently aligned to FOTA (Ferrari, Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso) contributed to the survey.

“By measuring, disclosing and reducing their operational and supply chain carbon emissions, the Formula One Teams lead international sports federations in the carbon race,” said Richard Mattison, the chief executive of Trucost, who undertook the research for FOTA.

The teams aim to have reduced emissions by 12.4% by the end of last season. FOTA chairman and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said they had achieved “significant reductions” in their carbon production.

“We will continue our focus on fuel efficiency and are also investigating opportunities to shift towards more carbon-efficient freight transport modes. We are delighted that the FIA Institute has launched a global environmental accreditation programme, which underscores the commitment of the sport to taking positive action on sustainability.”

Environmentally-friendly technologies developed by Formula One teams are finding applications in other industries. Williams’ flywheel Kinetic Energy Recovery System is already being used in London buses and is now being introduced on trams as well.

The full report can be downloaded here (PDF).

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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Teams have cut carbon emissions, says FOTA study”

  1. So changing to fuel efficient F1 engines couldn’t be less important in the grand scheme of things

    1. @hobbsy009 It’s still important, IMO. A lot of what F1 can do with it can and will easily filter down to road cars, which would cascade and multiply the effect. F1 is a show, yes, but it also helps to be relevant to the larger car industry, especially in R&D.

      1. Indeed, at present engines are modern car engines are only 30% efficient. There is clearly massive room for improvement.

        1. Surprisingly, I don’t believe there is, at least not utilising current technology, as one of my lecturers who has worked for engine companies has claimed.

      2. A-Safieldin (@)
        17th January 2013, 16:55

        @journeyer I agree that F1 most be relevant but to be honest they are currently following in the footsteps of the car industry. They may like to claim that KERS is some new innovation which (with the possible exception of the flywheel systems) is most certainly not, it’s essentially a glorified Toyota Prius system. Turbocharging for fuel efficiency is now common protocol, and F1 , despite being one of turbo’s pioneers, is following the car industries lead. KERS and Turbo’s will not filter down as they already exist. People need to realize this. However there are many other things to try.

        1. Its advancements in these fields that might filter down back to the car industry not the concepts themselfs in this case.

          1. @kelsier, precisely, if only F1 teams were allowed to develop their engines and KERS we might have some useful spinoffs for the car industry. Designing engines that can rev to 25000 rpm doesn’t mean we can expect next years cars to rev to 25000 but it does mean lighter valves made with stronger alloys
            have been tested in F1 and can be used to improve reliability in smaller more efficient higher reving engines.
            Also, could Williams have been more successful had they been allowed to use their own Kers system,? I am sure they expected to be able to use it when they designed it.

          2. A-Safieldin (@)
            17th January 2013, 21:42

            They could work on diesel engines. That’s not as silly as it sounds, the diesel engine is for all intents and purposes better than the petrol, however diesel engine components are too heavy so the engine can’t rev high and get to the serious power. That seems like something F1 could develop.

    2. @hobbsy009 The figures don’t suggest they’re that important, but they’re what the public can relate to the most.

  2. Drop Valencia!
    17th January 2013, 11:23

    Maybe that’s whats wrong with the Virgin CFD approach, they needed to put more petrol in their computer……..?

  3. Cue the posts blaming this on the aggressive Asia expansion of F1 and how F1 should stick to its European heritage and places with only true racing fans!

    1. I wonder if there’s scope for FOM to get an aeroplane manufacturer in as an F1 ‘technology partner’ to ship their freight around the world used whatever is the most efficient plane on the market? I suppose Airbus would be an obvious choice with most F1 teams being based in Europe. They’re already associated with Caterham.

      1. It would make more sense to make the order of the championship better. Although it wouldn’t be the most exciting pairing, doing Bahrain and Abu Dhabi together seems a bit obvious, as well as Malaysia and Singapore.

        1. *most sense. The aeroplane manufacturer affiliation is also a good idea of course.

        2. The problem with that is that it hurts ticket sales of both races. If races are spread months apart like Singapore and Malaysia, you’ll find that some people will save up and to go both, whereas if they were a week apart it’s a case of “one or the other”.

      2. Bring back the Zeppelin!

        1. best idea ever! And it can also transmit video images and data around the tracks, make it Bernie’s flying circus ;-)

          We could even have Red Bull put their logo on and have 900 m bungee jumps from it!

      3. I’d imagine that a stripped out Airbus A380 or two could haul a lot of stock. Unfortunately few airports have the facilities to support the giant of the skies (let alone land it!).

      4. A-Safieldin (@)
        17th January 2013, 17:01

        @keithcollantine I don’t think plane manufacturers operate planes for the purpose of travel, that is they are operated by airlines and companies. I think it would be like arriving at an airport and then calling the Toyota factory for a taxi. But I do agree an aerospace company would definitely benifit and benefit from F1.

        1. They don’t normally do that, no. But they do have their own planes and operate them, including prototypes, but also specials to ship big parts (airbus has one that can take on a big part of the nose section of mid range planes at once)

    2. Well it would be nice.

      1. Bernie should get the Antonov Design Bureau to build a few An-225s. That would solve the problem…who needs an A380?

  4. Marussia

    who use fuel oil instead of electricity for their high performance computing systems

    Is that right? They used a diesel or turbine engine to drive a generator to produce electricity to run their supercomputer instead of plugging it in at the mains? I know I’m oversimplifying for dramatic effect, but that seems an awfully long way round. Bit like planting a hickory tree to grow a branch to make into a sledgehammer handle to fix to a steel head to crack a nut.

    1. it’s a valid choice if you’re heavily dependent on non-interruption of supply. a lot of companies who supply and maintain their own computing centres at a high level will at least use a mixture of the two systems, with the fuel fed generators running 100% of the time anyway…..

    2. I’m actually wondering if this isn’t efficiency doublespeak that really means they are using an internal combustion or turbine powered windtunnel now instead of computer generated simulation, it reminds me of the description of a generator/turbocharger driven by exhaust gas described as a ” heat energy recovery system”

    3. I think its quite possible that they do that to have a better stability of the current. I understood power supply is not all that reliable and stable in some areas of the UK.
      The logistics company I used to work with build a warehouse for steel coil where they used magnetic cranes. They installed an emergency power supply at first, but then enlarged it to be able to run from the generator full time, because it was more stable (magnetic cranes automatically shut down with when they sensor unstable currents, as a safety measure)

  5. Ok, the teams reduced their carbon footprint by 7%.
    But this report doesn’t take into consideration the circuits: night races use quite a lot of electricity, not to mention having the luxury of building brand new circuits.
    I would like to see the carbon footprint of F1 as a whole.

    1. That would take years to compile, by which time, it would be severely out dated.

  6. Does it actually matter?
    F1 has never been environmentally friendly, and motorsport as a whole will never be environmentally friendly.
    F1 and motorsport as a whole does so little environmental damage that the comparative numbers aren’t worth bothering about; any work done by F1 to reduce emissions is almost instantly annulled due to the amount of oil countries like America and China burn per day.
    Politicians are the ones forcing the change, but realistically, nothing can really be environmentally friendly.
    eg: solar panels only have a shelf life of 20 years or so, and they cost an enormous amount of carbon to manufacture them.

    1. Of course it matters, everyone should be trying to be as efficient as possible when using fuel, not just for environmental concerns but also because fossil fuels are finite and should be preserved and it costs money to waste them.

      Motorsport can be environmentally friendly but F1 doesn’t have the political strength to change what fuels are used, it’s only the fuel used that causes F1 to be damaging to the environment.

      I want F1 cars to continue using petrol and to burn it very efficiently for max performance. I want to cleverly and efficiently use as much fuel as they need to produce the cars and to help put on the great show they can without wasting effort, time and money.

      Yeah F1 does very little damage to the environment compared to America and China but so what, they’ re hardly good examples.

      Sure F1 isn’t consuming much fuel compared to many processes and I don’t think F1 should be seen to set an example for car manufacturers or the general public, in fact I think quite the opposite. F1 is enjoyed by many and it’s successful because of the extravagance. I wouldn’t watch if it wasn’t and fuel is required to make it so big.


      There’s lots of things that can be done it’s just money currently dictates that we don’t.
      Countries, companies and people shouldn’t be using fossil fuels for energy, instead we should be using biofuels from the most efficient plant sources – to make best use of the suns energy – our main source of energy. The only plant that can do this is hemp (read the emperor wears no clothes for reasons why). Fossil fuels should be saved as emergency reserves and for aviation fuel (as aviation fuel can only be produced efficiently from fossil fuels)

      What difference does it make to F1 if the petrol comes from plants – none, petrols a simple compound and can easily be made from plant sources. If F1 were carbon neutral does that mean we could have 3 litre V10’s back please?

      1. But the space you’d use to grow the plant matter should be used for food; the Earth has a population exceeding 7 billion people.

        1. Ahh but hemp grows in many places where food can’t be grown, its also known as weed for a good reason!

          At present there is enough food for the world if it’s spread out well (which it isn’t, too much food is wasted) however population growth will mean that there isn’t enough food at some point. Population growth will probably continue to increase until about 2025 when there won’t be enough resources for the world and some people will have to die.

          There’s alot of issues in the world: bees dying out, population growth, fish population decreasing. In the next 60 years there’s going to be some devastating changes..

          Anyway I’ve had enough thinking about the negative things happening in the world, where’s the vettel bashing thread ;)

        2. Let’s go straight to nuclear.

          1. @hohum – Fusion is the way forward! There is a new nuclear fusion power plant being made in Southern France, ITER, which is a step in the right direction for renewable energy (as honestly I have next to no faith in wind, tidal etc. and biofuels require a lot of land) and if hydrogen fusion becomes an established energy generation method then of course we need a supply of Hydrogen, which can expand and be used as an alternative fuel to crude oil.

            I just felt the need to add my input to the off-topic discussion but I’ll get to the point now that F1 should be encouraging the use of Hydrogen as a fuel, which then may filter down to road cars and attract the attention of manufacturers such as BMW & Honda (whom are already investing in fuel cell technology) so F1 benefits from it. ITER may be the way to start it!

          2. @vettel1
            But to make Hydrogen, fossil fuels are burned…
            There is a car that GM made which runs on polluted seawater and it is a power station that uses absaloutely no fossil fuels to power it.

          3. @xjr15jaaag currently yes, you are correct. In future though, if fusion reactor generation becomes a feasible alternative to fossil fuels, then we will be able to get hydrogen from a renewable source (perhaps even the electrolysis of water from electricity generated by a fusion reactor). So yes, we need the infrastructure first but in due time I think hydrogen will be able to be obtained from a clean, carbon-free source and then be used to generate carbon-free power.

            Relating this back to F1 (as it’s getting rather off-topic!) it could be the tested for developing hydrogen-fuelled engines, which would increase it’s relevance to the motor industry (hence hopefully attracting back manufacturers) and return F1 to the technological pinnacle of motorsport. A win-win if you ask me!

  7. This is all good to hear.

  8. Anybody else find the irony in that they want to cut Carbon emissions in a sport where 98% of the car (and I’m sure most pieces of the garage kit) are made of Carbon…..?

    1. @fisha695 – yea it’s slightly ironic! The term Carbon emissions is too unspecific in my mind, they should really stress that it is CO/2 emissions but I’ve just got OCD over the whole issue!

      1. @vettel1 Carbon has a nicer media sound to it than Carbon Dioxide or CO2. Stupid really…everything is carbon based!

  9. This is great news and though it’s only a drop in the ocean it shows that tangible results concerning the protection of the environment can be produced even in sport. As far as fuel efficiency is concerned this is one of the most important points of the so-called Greenest City 2020 Action Plan introduced in my native Vancouver whose aim is to eliminate the negative impact that our actions have on the environment. I’m convinced if all of us contribute to that common goal by our own efforts the first positive signals will be seen even in the short term.

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