Will F1 commit to radical new engines? That depends on new engine makers committing to F1


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There were high hopes in the Austrian Grand Prix paddock that Saturday’s engine meeting at the five-star Hotel Steirerschlössl, a mini castle-like establishment situated in, as the name implies, the picturesque Styrian highlands surrounding the Red Bull Ring, would magically deliver definitive 2025-onwards powertrain regulations, but that was never the intention behind the meeting.

For proof of this statement consider one simple factor: team principals and technical directors were not invited (of which more later, for there was an exceptional case), so any deductions that regulations (or even binding decisions beyond agreement to meet again) would be agreed were not only premature but based on false premises.

The mere fact that, apart from F1 and FIA executive and senior officials, only CEOs of currently committed and potential engine suppliers were invited to the meeting in the boutique hotel owned by Red Bull proprietor Dietrich Mateschitz suggests the primary criterion was return on investment of future power units – not number of cylinders, cubic capacity or hybrid capabilities (although these were broadly discussed).

According to sources with knowledge of the meeting – a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ to maintain confidentiality was struck amongst the delegates – Red Bull proprietor Mateschitz delegated his authority to his F1 leadership due of Christian Horner and Helmut Marko. Mercedes F1 Toto Wolff was not present, but then he is not a director of engine company Mercedes High Performance Powertrains Ltd, of which the team is effectively a customer.

The purpose of the summit was to establish a top-down direction, one that determines what the current spectrum of suppliers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda (Red Bull from 2022-onwards) – is prepared to spend on F1 power units versus their market expectations, and to establish the terms and conditions under which brands such as Porsche and Audi are prepared to join F1 as engine suppliers, or even as team owners.

Porsche VP Fritz Enzinger was in the F1 paddock in Austria…
This approach differs markedly from that used before, where ambitious engineers – mostly with little grasp of marketing or economics – trotted wish-lists, which they submitted to the governing body at the time (2009) presided over by the regime. These items were then combined into a set of regulations that delivered the most complex and efficient engines in automotive history – at eye-watering prices.

Although costing methods vary, consider: In 1968 a Ford Cosworth V8 DFV, at the time the gold standard, cost around $10,000, translating to $80,000 at present values. True, that was for an outright purchase, and rebuilds – around four per season – were required, but most teams got by on engine budgets of $50,000 ($400,000 at current values) for two cars, so $25,000 ($200,000) per car per season. And they owned the units, rather than lease them.

Now consider that in 2019 – the last year on record – Mercedes High Performance Powertrains (the F1 engine division) reported a turnover of around $270m. According to sources around 65% of that was F1-related, the rest spent on internal and sporting projects, so $180m. While exact production figures are confidential, it is doubtful HPP produced more than 100 complete units across three teams, including for test purposes.

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That pans out at $1.8m per unit annually, or an average of $60m per team, yet FIA regulations permit suppliers to recover $20m per season in lease and servicing fees, meaning that in broad terms HPP subsidises F1 engine supply to the tune of $40m per team.

…as was Audi CEO Markus Duesmann
Costs are unlikely to have reduced since. Furthermore, Mercedes now supplies four teams, making for subsidies of around $160m, give or take $10m. No wonder Daimler chairman and head of Mercedes Ola Källenius – a former CEO of HPP – was an active participant on Saturday!

“I think it was a constructive dialogue,” said Horner on Sunday. “It’s important we find the right solution both in cost and products, for the future of Formula 1. I think the right stakeholders are involved in the discussion, and it’s important to work collectively for the benefit of the sport.

“I think we see that costs of the current engine are extremely prohibitive. It was not thought of when this engine was conceived, and I think there’s a fantastic opportunity for what could arguably be the engine for 10 years [after introduction] to do something a little bit different.

“It’s to address the emotion, the sounds, it has to tick the sustainability boxes, but I think it still needs to be entertaining otherwise we should all go and do Formula E. Hopefully the collective minds can come up with something attractive for 2025 or what would be more sensible is to do the job properly for 2026.”

Note: Where previous talk had been about 2025 introduction, already there are attempts to push the introduction back by a year.

The challenge facing F1 engine suppliers is that they all have different agendas: On one hand Renault uses F1 as a flagship for a range of (largely) mass-produced econo-box cars; on the other Red Bull aims to be self-sufficient across its two teams, hence its decision to produce its own units based on Honda’s design. Sitting between these extremes are Mercedes and Ferrari. Try slotting Porsche and Audi into that lot, yet F1 desperately needs more than four suppliers…

Red Bull will rebrand its Honda power units next year
Complicating the matter further are the unknown ecological and political factors: That the automotive world, including F1, needs to be carbon zero is absolutely clear, yet politicians cannot even agree on a simple set of emission standards, let alone provide a roadmap for the future. This topic opened the second day of the FIA’s combined mobility and sport conference, held this week in Monaco. Fittingly, the theme is: ‘PurposeDriven’.

Motorsport Industries Association CEO Chris Aylett likened the topic to space exploration, saying, “Zero carbon is our ‘man on the moon’,” adding that when US president JF Kennedy set the objective of landing a human on the moon he didn’t tell the engineers how to go about it. By implication politicians are doing precisely the opposite with emissions legislation – yet are clearly far from being qualified to do so.

One thing was clear from the session: Speakers believe that electricity is not the only global alternative for the automotive industry and that the internal combustion engine will be around for decades to come, regardless of what ecologists and politicians preach, if for no reason other than the world simply cannot generate sufficient affordable electricity and deliver it sufficient quantities to charging points.

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Per chance, the headline feature in Tuesday’s edition of (the daily) Automotive News industry publication made the point that, while around 15% of current new car sales are electrified vehicles, 50% of those are what are known as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), which are, of course, powered by ICE units, whether diesel or petrol-powered.

Thus, 92.5% of the 85m cars the global automotive motor industry will this year add to roads this year will be fuel-powered to some degree or other. With a life expectancy of 15 years it is clear the 1bn-strong global vehicle park will increase in the medium term (at least), making it imperative that zero-carbon combustible fuels are developed as rapidly as possible. As production ramps up, so costs should progressively reduce.

Horner isn’t impressed by Formula E’s electric motors
Disciples of electric vehicles predict enormous strides in battery technology over the next few years, citing mass power density advances which reduce weight, cut costs and extend range. However, they seldom (if ever) acknowledge that such technologies apply equally to PHEVs; indeed, many deny that PHEVs could play a pivotal role in accelerating the development of batteries, thus serving PHEVs and EVs equally.

During the conference Burkhard Goeschel, president of the FIA Manufacturers Commission, former technical head of BMW and long-standing alternate energy proponent embraced made the point that the motor industry is building “giga-factory upon giga-factory upon giga-factory”, but that global reserves of lithium, nickel and copper – primary ingredients in the production of lithium-ion cells – are depleting rapidly.

Dr Goeschel believes that solid state batteries will be the next big thing across the industry. F1 proved its reaction abilities by designing and developing ventilators during the COVID pandemic; imagine how rapidly motorsport could develop solid state batteries if pushed to do so, even if they are also deployed in EVs. Indeed, Renault CEO Luca de Meo justifies his company’s F1 engagement in the face of a push to electrification on that basis.

The primary difference between the two is that Li-ion uses liquid electrolytic solutions to regulate current flow, while solid-state cells, which pack up to thrice the energy density, rely on solid electrolytes. These are also less combustible and rely on less toxic materials, although they do present manufacturing and scaling challenges. However, ongoing research could resolve these sooner rather than later.

“We have a lot of electric motor sport series and we should put a lot of purpose on pushing battery technology,” said Goeschel.

Hydrogen could be the future fuel of the Le Mans 24 Hours
“I know the costs could ramp up but we have to push. If we go to solid state batteries and it fulfils the performance which has been discussed, it could outperform hydrogen fuel cells.

“The other area is sustainable e-fuels,” he said. “We have existing infrastructure for liquid fuels and we have a very weak infrastructure for electric vehicles. We cannot neglect that.”

Intriguingly, though, during his session Pierre Fillon, CEO of the Le Mans 24 classic, stated WEC’s top racing class could be hydrogen-powered within 10 years, such is progress made by fuel cell technologies. Thus, by the turn of the decade global motorsport could be powered by three distinctly different energy sources: e-fuels, electricity and hydrogen, each with obvious cross-over potential for road car applications.

However, the major issue is that motorsport does not carry the highest priority for politicians, yet motorsport could provide the solutions to low- or zero-carbon mobility solutions. Thus, it is incumbent upon the FIA, which carries global responsibility for both disciplines, to formulate technologies that drive mobility solutions forward via motorsport.

F1 is the FIA’s standard bearer in this regard both through its hi-tech capabilities and global reach, which brings us neatly to the point of Saturday’s summit: to formulate F1’s 2025-onward engine regulations that tick the following boxes with an indelible marker pen: similar power levels to current, lower costs, run on zero-carbon fuels, and increased hybridisation. A simple list, yet all the desired characteristics are mutually exclusive.

F1’s next rules revolution in 2025
Analysis: Radical changes on the drawing board for F1’s next rules revolution in 2025
Various options were (allegedly) discussed in broad terms, including a switch from V6s to downsized four-cylinder inline units as per road car trends, and the scrapping of the horrifically complex and expensive MGU-H units which sap engine noise, then compensate for energy recovery loss via all-wheel drive, as originally revealed by RaceFans.

There is, though, a flipside: Unless Porsche and/or Audi (or any other incoming brand) commits wholeheartedly to a new power unit formula there is little rationale in change, for dumping the current formula for the sake of change makes little sense unless F1 benefits via increased participation from motor manufacturers. If not, why incur these costs?

“The discussion was ‘what are we doing in the future in terms of engine’, because we want to save costs, so we don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Wolff, who did not attend the summit but is clearly protecting vested interests, told the FIA conference on Monday.

“We also want to have an engine that is relevant from 2025 to 2030, and we can’t be old petrol heads with screaming engines when everybody expects us to be going electric.

“So these engines are still going to be fuelled [by zero-carbon fuels]. We are staying with the current V6 format, but the electric component is going to massively increase.”

Thus, it is not inconceivable that F1 sticks to the current V6 architecture by converting the tried and tested engines to run on e-fuels or ‘drop-in’ fuels that require little modification. The MGU-H technology has, after all, been fully paid for, while the reliability of the units is no longer a major concern. Such a decision will be by far the cheapest, but, equally, ticks fewer boxes and is unlikely to attract incoming brands.

F1 has been here before: In July 2018 a summit was called shortly before the British Grand Prix weekend and a full slate of options presented to interested manufacturers, including Porsche. When suits in Stuttgart refused to commit to F1 a wholesale change of engine regulations were scrapped and the lifespan of current units extended to the end of 2025, subsequently shorted by a year and their specifications frozen for the duration.

Porsche is saying in Formula E, but Audi is leaving
The next step in the current process is for Saturday’s attendees to confer internally before another summit called in the near future – likely in the run-up to Silverstone – to ascertain the appetite of the VW Group companies and whatever follow-up points are raised by the current suppliers. That meeting will provide the acid test for F1’s commitment to long-term sustainability.

That F1 needs to change its ways is clear, that the ICE is far from dead equally so. The trick facing the FIA, F1 and all engine suppliers – present and potential – is to manage the switch-over in such a way that the decisions find lasting favour amongst fans, sponsors, promoters, broadcasters, all of whom will base their medium- to long-term decisions upon the engine formula.

The ultimate irony is, though, that after years of criticism of the current engine formula it is delivering the best racing for many a year, yet its demise is being widely debated due to external factors, not all of which are within the sport’s control.


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76 comments on “Will F1 commit to radical new engines? That depends on new engine makers committing to F1”

  1. “if for no reason other than the world simply cannot generate sufficient affordable electricity and deliver it sufficient quantities to charging points.”

    In a world where cars can be powered by oil pumped halfway around the world, from several kilometres under the sea or in inhospitable deserts, that seems like plain misdirection at the hands of people with a vested interest.

    Yes, windmills, solar plants etc don’t build themselves, and the grids will need upgrading with their increased importance to humanity as a whole, but we have solutions right now that can collect and deliver enough energy to supply large swaths of global mobility (and more) cleanly and from renewable resources.

    1. “making it imperative that zero-carbon combustible fuels are developed as rapidly as possible. As production ramps up, so costs should progressively reduce.”

      Please take a look at the inefficiencies inherent with any process that produces “synthetic fuels”.

      If you believe humanity is not capable of collecting enough renewable energy to supply BEVs with electricity directly, “synthetic fuels” are right out even as a part of the solution.

      1. Please take a look at the inefficiencies inherent with any process that produces “synthetic fuels”.

        It (synthetic fuels incl. green hydrogen) is certainly less efficient, but for some wind/solar production it might actually work.
        e.g. when the electricity generation is uneconomically remote (e.g. at sea), or to flatten the discrepancy between electricity production and energy need.

      2. @proesterchen

        Please take a look at the inefficiencies inherent with any process that produces “synthetic fuels”.

        Yes, of course, for new vehicles. But there’s millions of vehicles on the road right now that if were switched to synthetic fuels would lower overall emissions. On top of that, there are certain categories of vehicles (overloading 4WDs, for example) which just aren’t practical as EVs. My 2010 Toyota Prado has 1,300 km range, which for some trips we do is necessary (or at least require the ability to carry extra fuel in jerry cans).

        Synthetic fuels can bridge the gap and reduce emissions until the technology catches up.

        1. @justrhysism

          “Synthetic fuels” only exist as an idea to keep the infrastructure for liquid fuels and ICEs in place, and to be exploited by companies with interests in fossil fuels the moment the underlying incredible inefficiencies leading to massive cost issues with “synthetic fuels” become apparent. They are a bridge to nowhere. They are the ultimate fata morgana.

          For niche applications like the one you cited, the unfortunate truth is that fuel costs and upkeep will increase massively as ICEs are phased out in general transportation and the volume of gas needed to be produced drops in the coming decades.

          At the same time, there is nothing keeping manufacturers of large 4WDs from putting monumental battery packs in their already large and heavy vehicles, drop the ICEs and all accompanying drive train pieces and go with simple electric motors on a per-wheel basis.

          The market will converge and the remaining niches will get filled with small-run or bespoke, very specifically designed machinery. But cars, and trucks, and lorries, in general, will make the switch away from ICEs, and do so in the not so distant future.

          1. @proesterchen you must live in a very wealthy country where everyone can afford new vehicles and there aren’t vast distances to travel.

            Where I’m from, 4WDs and trucks with long ranges aren’t niche—but necessary. Hydrogen, maybe.

            So you think using massive amounts of finite resources to build new vehicles is more efficient than using existing machinery on zero-carbon fuel, then eh? Yeah, righto.

            EVs are the future no doubt. But we need carbon reduction solutions now without the farcical fairytale of magically replacing every vehicle on the planet. You’re living in a dream land.

          2. @justrhysism

            The car market is pretty simple, isn’t it? Some people and a lot of companies buy/lease new cars, which eventually get replaced or sold off, so they trickle down to used car buyers, over and over again, until they are no longer economical to run or repair.

            So as the number of new BEVs increases, the number of you off-lease BEVs keeps growing, making them a viable option for second-hand owners, and so on. Eventually, there will no longer be any ICE-based new cars coming in as they become less and less valuable and harder to sell once going off-lease, leading to ICEs being flushed out of the market as they age, break, rust, and become economically unviable due to increase fuel prices.

            These cars are being built, by the tens of millions, every year. The only change will be a move away from ICEs to BEVs powering the cars coming into fleets, while ICE cars age out of use.

            If you think buying a BEV over an ICE is somehow a question of wealth, you’re not going to be happy with the price of these “synthetic fuels” that you want to power your ICE car with. We are talking about 85-90% of energy input being thrown away in that process, which you will have to pay for anyway, without ever reaching the wheels on your car.

            That’s the fundamental issue with “synthetic fuel”, it’s wasteful, it’s inefficient, and it’s going to be a niche solution to a niche market simply because of the costs involved.

          3. @proesterchen That’s still far too slow. You’re talking literally decades before ICEs are replaced en-masse, and that’s under the assumption that every new car sold from today is a BEV (which it isn’t, it will be long over a decade before even that occurs).

            So you’d rather continually extract and burn fossil fuels during the decades long transition? In the name of efficiency?

            Synthetic fuels derived from atmospheric CO2 powered by renewable energy delivered via existing infrastructure provides a carbon-neutral transition.

            Synthetic fuel needs to be created anyway for sustainable flight (because batteries are unlikely to reach the density required anytime soon), so it might as well be used to clean up the existing transportation industry with minimal effort.

            Just waiting for EVs to eventually take over is too slow, impractical, and doesn’t even cover major emitters such as long-haul cargo (both land and sea) and aviation.

            You need to get past the inefficiency, and look beyond the car. Also consider the timeline. Frankly, it’s obvious.

    2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      7th July 2021, 12:43

      Yep this was the sentence that hit me as wholly inaccurate. Its far easier to distribute electricity efficiently than it is liquid fuels. Yes there will be exceptions, but wake up and smell the electric coffee Dieter.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        7th July 2021, 13:01

        Also the rhetoric from ICE disciples regards battery production is that based on materials it is not sustainable. The is UTTER rubbish.
        For example there are about 1.5 Billion cars in the world at the moment. The estimated reserves of Lithium is about 21 million metric tons and about 90 car batteries can be made from each ton. Do the maths, that about 1.9 Billion car batteries.
        New sources of Lithium are constantly being found and batteries become every easier to recycle. New batteries are on the way that may not require Lithium or rare earth minerals/metals.
        I urge anyone to do some proper research on this. This type of negativity regards battery electric vehicles should be put to bed. Its just plain wrong.

        That being said BEVs are not perfect for every application. I more than happy (excited even) to see what happens with non fossil, low carbon liquid fuels for ICE in the future. If F1 can remain ICE in the future why not get rid of the battery element and make them 100% ICE? Provided it could be clean, sustainable and relatively cheap then why not?

    3. In a world where cars can be powered by oil pumped halfway around the world, from several kilometres under the sea or in inhospitable deserts, that seems like plain misdirection at the hands of people with a vested interest.

      I agree. But …

      In 2020, about 4,009 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) (or about 4.01 trillion kWh) of electricity were generated at utility-scale electricity generation facilities in the United States. About 60% of this electricity generation was from fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases.

      When you write “we”, don’t include the USA.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        7th July 2021, 13:07

        I agree, But…

        EVs are 80-90% efficient, ICE are about 20-30%. Even if electric is produced for EVs from coal its still way cleaner to use EV versus ICE.

        So I propose the USA are included in the “we”!

        1. I live in New Jersey. That’s my we.

          Almost all of New Jersey’s in-state electricity generation is fueled by natural gas and nuclear energy. The two fuels together accounted for 94% of the electricity generated at utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) facilities in the state in 2019. Utility- and small-scale (less than 1 megawatt) facilities fueled with renewables provided most of the rest of New Jersey’s in-state electricity generation in 2019.

          New Jersey consumes more electricity than it generates. New Jersey obtained about 8% of its power from generators in other states by way of the Interconnection. The average retail price of electricity in New Jersey is typically among the top one-fourth of the states. Unless something radical changes the adoption of EV will make things worse for our electric grid.

          I am hopeful but I am pragmatic. We will not be where we need to be anytime soon. Not even by 2050.

          Our goal must not be a one-one swap of cars. We should be discouraging car ownership, and incentivising remote work and mass transit.

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            7th July 2021, 13:36

            Well said.

            There is lots to get done, not least winning over the naysayers.

            Will we be where we need to anytime soon? Maybe not, but even more reason to start the journey now.

          2. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk While you do acknowledge a potential movement away from compounds such as Lithium, you do ignore the ecological costs of mining for all that Lithium you espouse is available, as well as the other materials being used. But of course we aren’t here spelling out every last nuance of the very complex situation, and solving it today:)

          3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            7th July 2021, 15:01

            Robbie I guess we would have to way up the ecological costs of mining Lithium against those of mining coal and grilling for oil. Obviously there is scope to reduce ecological impacts with all of these activities.

          4. Yeah exactly.

    4. I just wish they had an editor so I could have got far enough through the word salad to see this sentence. I’m not even counting the vast amount of spelling errors.

  2. Jonathan Parkin
    7th July 2021, 12:49

    I’m not sure if this is still the case but didn’t IndyCars or CART place a limit on how much engines and chassis should cost. What if F1 did that? Would that reduce costs and allow other engine manufacturers in

    1. You can limit the price that manufacturers can charge their customers, which F1 already did, but it’s very difficult to set maximum costs for R&D and production for manufacturers.
      The current turbo-hybrid PUs are extremely complicated and the technology is very expensive (especially the MGU-H). The new engine formula would have to be a whole lot simpler than the current one to bring down costs and attract new engine suppliers.

      1. “The current turbo-hybrid PUs are extremely complicated and the technology is very expensive (especially the MGU-H).”

        I know this has been repeated ad nauseam but despite the odd and somewhat misleading name, this “complicated” MGU-H is a conceptually quite simple electric motor/generator that is used to control the spindle speed of the ICE’s single turbo.

        If the exhaust flow isn’t high enough to spin the compressor up to the desired level of boost, the MGU-H acts as a motor to increase spindle speed. If the exhaust flow is too high, the MGU-H acts as a generator, slowing down the spindle speed.

        Simple, well understood, and by now quite reliable even in implementations that (as per usual for F1) put performance above anything else. (i.e. the split (turbo)—MGU-H–(compressor)-arrangement pioneered by Mercedes-Benz)

        1. Thanks for the clarification, @proesterchen!
          Now I don’t understand why I always here the R&D costs for the MGU-H are very high and keep new suppliers from entering F1, if the concept is relatively simple?! It’s either pretty difficult to get to work properly or other manufacturers want to get rid of it, because they believe one of their competitors holds an advantage in that area.

          1. The MGU-H is simple in concept, but as with all things relevant to performance, the costs mostly come from optimizing its implementation to get the best performance with adequate reliability – like the split setup Mercedes came up with early on: To get that working, you have to deal with a significantly longer shaft connecting the turbine at the rear of the engine with the compressor at the front, the motor/generator sitting along said shaft in the hot V of the ICE, and all while it rotates at up to 128000 rpm, too.

            With now 7 years (a bit less for Honda) of development under their belts, the current suppliers have probably figured out a high-performance setup with adequate reliability, but the VW group and any other potential PU supplier would likely need to play catch-up and learn lessons the others have long mastered.

            So yeah, they’re all arguing in their own best interests, and if you want to make entering for your brand easier, you’re trying to get as many parts removed where the others have a wealth of knowledge and you’d spend money on equalling them.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      7th July 2021, 13:42

      The engine manufacturers did agree to keep the cost for a supply of engines per season to capped at $12 million.

  3. ” and deliver it sufficient quantities to charging points.” Therein lies (a) rub. Between San Antonio and El Paso (West Texas hubs) once one gets out of those metro areas the distance between any town, at all, with gasoline, becomes rapidly meager. Who will erect charging stations in amounts (and time) to “fuel” battery cars? Hardly not in Iraan or Balmorhea … IMHO.

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      7th July 2021, 13:11


      People who want to make money out of it…

      Its cheaper to lay cable than pipeline or transport liquid fuel.

      And its common to markup the electric by 500% when vended.

      It will happen.

      1. I think you are too optimistic. There are real problems to be solve with providing the infrastructure for EV.

        “It will happen” feels like a handwaving gesture.

        1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          7th July 2021, 13:39

          Time will tell. My optimism is to balance others pessimism…

          The gas stations got built didn’t they?

          1. Gas stations have a 100 year head start.

          2. Look. I agree that electric vehicles are the future, but I think the timing and scale of the challenge must not be trivialised.

            Since you don’t live in the U.K., you may understand the scale of the challenge. In a country as large as the USA with a federalist system of independent states of various sizes and population densities, the challenges for E.V. adoption are not insignificant.

            Some 276 million vehicles were registered in the USA in 2019. The figures include passenger cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, and other vehicles. In 2019, the total number of vehicles registered for use on the road in the U.K. increased to just over 40 million.

            Texas has more people (29 million) than New Jersey (9 million). Texas is about 35 times bigger than New Jersey. Texas is the second-largest U.S. state by area and population, with approximately 109.9 residents per square mile. But New Jersey has 1,211.3 residents per square mile.

            With that population density and size, building out charging infrastructure in New Jersey will not be an insurmountable challenge.

            Texas, on the other hand. 🤷🏽‍♂️

            When you say someone will do it, who do you mean?

            The FIA will certainly have to think about how the sport will be perceived beyond 2030.

      2. Those places (Iraan or Balmorhea) sound pretty sunny to me.
        It’s easy to build a solar farm with a battery and start selling the ‘juice’ at huge profits.

        If it’s windy enough, one can include a wind turbine or two as well.

    2. Texas has huge electrical grid supply issues right now; throw in EV’s and it will get way worse. The US is a huge country and driving distances are great; I can’t imagine driving from Seattle to Denver in an electrical vehicle. I went to central Oregon for the eclipse a few years ago and on the return trip there were lines of Teslas waiting to charge at the charging station on the Columbia River/I-84 intersection.

      1. This is actually a huge false perception, EVs put very little strain on charging grids compared to eg: offices or air conditioning – even if the numbers were to wildly increase in Texas there would be a miniscule overall impact.

        They can also be used as off-grid storage, although that is a pretty long way off given Texas’ very poor infrastructure currently. (but has worked in some trials in France)

        1. I guess @SteveR‘s point is that the Texas grid is already at capacity usage and will be for a while. if the numbers were to wildly increase in Texas there would be a overall impact.

      2. SteveR, at a certain point, wouldn’t the real limiting factor to a journey of that length be the person sat inside the car, rather than the means of propulsion of the car itself?

        In your proposed journey, no road car would be capable of covering that journey without making multiple road stops irrespective of how it was powered, and driver fatigue would also limit the total distance that could be covered per day.

  4. EVs with hydrogen fuel cells have not been taken off the table by the manufacturers. Toyota sell the Mirai, Hyundai and Honda also have hydrogen cell cars for sale.
    The production and storage of hydrogen is still an issue. But the use of hydrogen to produce electricity on site for the Extreme E competition is using very clever tech and is just at the beginning of development. If it proves successful It could be used to produce hydrogen on site at fuel stations rather than transport fuel around as we do now.
    The alternate fuels Synthetic or Bio- Fuels are attractive until things like energy density is taken into account. Probably fine for F1 but not practical for the ordinary car.

    1. @johnrkh The problem is that the manufacturers currently involved in F1 (Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes) are currently not betting on hydrogen, so why would they make a hydrogen formula?

    2. While it is true that there ARE hydrogen cars on the market, there does not currently seem to be going a lot of new R&D into developing new models though @johnrkh. I guess currently there are so many resources going towards development of battery electric solutions, ramping up production of batteries, changing product portfolio etc as well as the issues with supply/cost of hydrogen (especially anything close to “green”) and the relatively expensive hardware make it a less likely solution for the short/ mid term.
      In reality there currently is no manufacturer really putting their bets on hydrogen.

      It might be that hydrogen will work better for heavier equipment – trains, trucks, ships etc, since space is somewhat less of an issue there and they already cost a lot so the tech is not going to burden them so much.

    3. @johnrkh whilst you say that “hydrogen fuel cells have not been taken off the table by the manufacturers”, arguably it’s mostly Toyota that’s pushing for hydrogen fuel cell cars as a commercial product – whilst Honda and Hyundai might also have hydrogen fuel cell cars, they’re more of a technology demonstrator at this stage.

      Whilst there are arguments for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the market for those vehicles looks like it’s more for specific market sectors, not necessarily a mass market product – aviation, shipping and heavy goods vehicles have been talked about as more likely candidates for hydrogen as a fuel source, rather than passenger cars.

      As @bascb points out, the production chain for hydrogen also faces a lot of questions about how dirty it currently is – whilst electrolysis is viable, it’s almost exclusively produced from steam reforming of methane gas, which is a highly energy intensive process (the IEA puts electrolysis of water as generating about 0.1% of the global supply of hydrogen right now). Whilst the ACO were proud to trumpet the hydrogen filling station at the Circuit de la Sarthe, they had to rather awkwardly admit that it was from non-renewable sources that were producing hydrogen for a local plastic production facility (even if they are supposedly trying to move to a cleaner source).

      The IEA has worked out that satisfying just the current demand for industrial uses of hydrogen purely from electrolysis would increase the global demand for electricity by 3,600 TWh – that is more than the whole of the EU currently produces, and doesn’t allow for any increase in demand in the future. Being able to satisfy that demand alone, let alone expanding it to new markets, is arguably a far bigger challenge (the fuel cell itself is already fairly mature technology by this stage).

      1. @anon I think you should read what I wrote again, I did not mention the facility in France. I note that you used the same argument nearly a year ago, the tech has moved on considerably since then. My focus is on new emerging tech one of which I pointed out, that will take time to develop but will imo have the potential to produce a viable product.
        You say that the Honda and Hyundai are more at the technology demonstrator at this stage. I would say the Toyota is also still at that stage as well, as they are all breaking new ground in terms of fuel cell design and construction, as well as the three manufacturers already producing and selling hydrogen fuel cell cars BMW are set to release a vehicle in 2025 and Jaguar are also working on producing hydrogen fuel cell cars. Merc has shelved development for the moment due to costs as have Honda but Ford and GM are continuing development for long haul heavy vehicles.
        What we need to take into account is at the moment EV’s are leading with nearly annual improvement in battery storage, charging and of course producing EV’s is much cheaper than ICE or Hydrogen vehicles. But the future of batteries is dependant on developing new materials for construction as Cobalt and lithium mining will no doubt become an issue.
        The two factors that will hold back Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would be manufacturing costs and the cost of producing the hydrogen it’s self. So reduce the cost of Hydrogen and use clean energy to do that (see original post) and long term I would say Hydrogen fuel cells are looking good.

        1. @johnrkh I mentioned the facility in France because Dieter chose to bring that up in this article when talking about hydrogen as a fuel source.

          With regards to the example that you cite from the Extreme E series, that isn’t really “very clever tech and is just at the beginning of development”. On the contrary, the design of the fuel cell itself is a fairly standard design using off the shelf parts that have been adapted from current industrial use to a niche application – this sort of generator is already on the commercial market, and has been for a few years now.

          When you talk about General Motors and Ford, you are kind of making the point that I was making when talking about there being some sectors where it might be used, such as heavy goods vehicles – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be suitable for all types of vehicle or all sectors. With the development vehicle that Jaguar are producing, if you look more closely at what they say about it, they make that point – they talk about using those fuel cell vehicles for heavy long range vehicles, or vehicles operating in extreme temperature conditions i.e. targeted use in specific transport sectors, and not necessarily saying that it is suitable or viable as a mass market solution.

          Saying “it’ll be fine if we just cut the cost and use clean energy” feels like a bit of a hand waiving exercise that is intended to make it sound as if we can just switch to hydrogen without having to compromise on our current lifestyles. I feel that it is often being overhyped as a miracle technology, and that the compromises and technical difficulties are too often pushed to the background, as well as the tendency for too many to say “it’s OK because hydrogen fuel cells are coming along in the future, so that means we don’t need to do anything now”.

          1. @anon I re-read my post and I certainly did not imply let alone say anything that could be rebuked by your last paragraph. The rest of your post you are saying that the tech that Ford GM Jaguar and others are developing is not transferable? I have to disagree with that.
            But we will see in the fullness of time :)

          2. @johnrkh the same manufacturers you cite as investing in hydrogen fuel cell technology are themselves also pointing out those limitations.

            BMW, for example, is rather open that hydrogen fuel cells will be a compromise because of the additional inefficiencies that cannot be removed from the production cycle compared to a battery electric vehicle, and Klaus Froehlich – who, until his recent retirement, had led BMW’s Research and Development division for over 30 years, and recently was leading BMW’s research into hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – has talked about hydrogen fuel cells being “used primarily in applications that cannot be directly electrified, such as long-distance heavy duty transport”.

            In their case, they see hydrogen fuel cells as being more of a parallel technology that would be used only for specific models within their range – their largest and most luxurious SUVs were the main candidates they were looking at for hydrogen fuel cells – rather than necessarily displacing battery vehicles in a significant sense.

            Similarly, organisations such as the International Energy Organisation have also talked about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles being more of a parallel market that would be used for specific areas of the transport sector, and even then the market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles isn’t expected to be particularly significant until the mid 2040s. Even the industry bodies that have been set up explicitly to promote hydrogen as a fuel source still suggest that, even into the 2050s, hydrogen fuel cell cars would be more of a parallel development alongside other solutions.

            It is also worth noting that is is a bit misleading to claim that “BMW are set to release a vehicle in 2025”. What they have said is that they are hoping for a limited production run of their top end SUVs that have been modified to use hydrogen fuel cells – they then went on to say that 2025 is considered the earliest possible date that they could start those limited production runs. That date of 2025 is more of an aspirational target, and there have been some parts of the automotive press who have suggested that date might not be achievable.

            The original proposal for a 2025 production run was made back in 2015, with the first prototypes meant to begin real world trials in 2019. BMW’s now pushed back the initial rollout of those prototype cars to 2022, suggesting the programme is already 2-3 years behind schedule.

            I’m not saying that there will never be hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – what I am saying is that, in my opinion, there are those who are guilty of treating it as a panacea for everything that often results in it being overhyped as a potential solution.

            Furthermore, current projects to develop hydrogen fuel cell cars have had problems with development tending to be slower than originally forecast – so, whilst the aspirations might be laudable, the progress towards those aims has fallen short of the rhetoric.

  5. “…after years of criticism of the current engine formula it is delivering the best racing for many a year…”

    If the engine formula has delivered poor racing for several years, doesn’t change and then suddenly starts delivering good racing, then surely that change is most likely down to other factors, not the engines.

    1. Nomad I had a similar thought. Added to what you have said it has taken until this year for the Honda pu to seemingly be a match to the Mercedes unit. And then there are other factors as you have correctly pointed out.

    2. Yep, agree – the floor changes and incoming technical regulations have nothing to do with it at all…. ;)

  6. I think F1 should look at a single supplier of ICE and let the manufacturers go loose on Hybrid/Electric systems. That way, the ICE can be made to a set price point, be as loud/entertaining as it is chosen to be and deliver whatever power it is chosen to have. Run it on whichever fuel while at it. Who delivers the ICE is irrelevant since it would be the same for everyone. At the same time the manufacturers, present and potential new ones, all seem to be interested in developing EV technology (apart perhaps from RedBull). So let them do that. Come up with a small set of rules limiting for example the volume and/or weight of the energy store and a maximum charge/deployment rate. That would surely lead to some fascinating and useful R&D in efficient EV technologies. I’m thinking that the EV systems should deliver at least, but most likely still close to, 50% of the total propulsion of the cars, with around 1000 hp in total like today.

    1. Problem is that the reality is the opposite…
      Manufacturers build engines but they buy in batteries and electric motors.

    2. I think F1 should look at a single supplier of ICE and let the manufacturers go loose on Hybrid/Electric systems.

      Good, creative thinking, and it could work. I really like the idea.
      Just it won’t happen I guess. Too much status quo to defend.

      1. It probably won’t happen, no. But we who don’t have millions invested can swing new ideas around without loosing anything and hope that someone in the right place eventually take notice. Or that it by pure chance coincides with their agenda at some point.

    3. @Robert Your not the first person to suggest a change to a spec series on this forum and several people here are strong advocates of it. Some of the rule changes being brought in by Liberty also seem to be heading in that direction. But Formula 1 is a manufacturers championship, take away the manufacturers reason to race and they won’t race. F1 will end, it would turn into an extension of F2 or a Euro centric Indy Car series.

      1. @johnrkh No no, you must have misunderstood my point. I really don’t want a spec series, hence why I want to make the EV part of the hybrid systems free for development. At the moment no one seem to agree upon what engine to use, but every one is interested in the EV and hybrid market. Manufacturers also have different kinds of systems in development so allowing them to do relevant research in F1 I think is the way to make them stay. The problem that manufacturers have is when they have to invest a lot of money into research that are then only relevant in F1. The MGU-H for instance didn’t catch on for the road car market which is why everyone seem to want to get rid of it, it has become an unnecessary expense. If they can align the R&D from F1 with what they are doing in their core business manufacturers will stay and more will join.

    4. Isn’t EV R&D supposed to be happenign in Formula-e?

      1. Supposed to? Perhaps, but that’s just a reason for F1 to stay hybrid isn’t it? Formula E quickly attracted a lot of manufacturers because it allowed them to showcase relevant profiling that wasn’t possible in F1 at the time. F1 could still catch up with those times.

  7. F1 is really at a dilemma here. They need to find the right balance between a road relevent/efficient/carbon neutral (as much as possible) engine, but still have a loud/spectacular/powerful one to not drive away too many of its fans.
    The turbo-hybrids were definitely the wrong way to achieve these goals. They are great pieces of engeneering, but not good for entertainment and far too expensive.

    The new engine formula needs to be as simple as possible, to keep costs low and attract new manufacturers, but at the same time have road relevant technology and be ‘spectacular’ – powerful and loud.

  8. Soooo…. hydrogen powered F1? It’s the only logical way to go. But it will surely take at LEAST 5 years to create, safely enough

    1. Synthetic fuels will never be a thing (way too expensive and the cost isn’t coming down). Hydrogen is unlikely to be used on a mass scale but could be used for some applications, so that would be a good option.

      1. @paeschli Assuming that something which is a relatively new concept will never get anywhere is a bold statement. Especially such a broad concept as synthetic fuels. Everything that is in early stages of development will always be too expensive for commercial use. A few years ago, or maybe decades by now, commercially available EV’s where a completely ridiculous concept. The idea of synthetic fuels is not a bad one, but yes there are practical hurdles that needs be solved yet. To rule it out completely at this early stage though, is the kind of thinking that would have had us still enjoying the fire in our caves.

    2. The problem with that is hydrogen is not properly a fuel, in the sense that it is not a source of energy. It is more analogous to a battery, and you still have to consider where the energy stored in the hydrogen is coming from, and if it is more advantageous than existing energy storage mediums, aka batteries.

      1. Currently about 95% of hydrogen used for fuel is stripped from fossil fuels, and only about 5% comes from the electrolysis of water. So until we get all of our hydrogen from water, and make sure the energy for splitting water is clean itself, hydrogen is not a net benefit for sustainability. Then there’s the safety issues involved in using it in racing, and I think you can move the date out far further than even ten years, though it’s likely advances in battery technology will moot it’s application in F1.

    3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      8th July 2021, 7:37

      Yes but hydrogen how?
      Hydrogen in an ICE engine is only about 25% efficient, makes a nice noise but emits dangerous nitrogen oxides. I can’t imagine F1 would go that route.
      The hydrogen fuel cell option is effectively the same as a Battery Electric car, almost silent, but powered by the hydrogen cell instead of the battery at about 50% efficiency.

  9. When will they change the name from Formula One to Specification One?
    That’s what the current engine regs are and the next ones will certainly be as well.

    They should really open things up. If there are multiple fuels available – let them have at it. Use whichever suits that manufacturer.
    Same goes for engine types/layouts – give them some sensible limits on outputs/emissions/materials/mass/whatever and let them go.

    1. I feel there are enough spec series already. So I too think that instead of clamping down with more regulation it might be better to open up. This is all too conservative. I already thought they were when they introduced the current engine platforms. They should push through at the time and go for I4 hybrids instead of the V6 compromise. But really, letting it all go is a great idea. But maybe add a rule that at the end of the season the design of the engine has to be shared with the other teams. That will be an insurance that no team will want to spend too much and also the cost of getting it wrong is 1 year at the most. Let’s see who can innovate the fastest for the least amount of money

      1. The moment requires a move like that, I agree.

        F1’s most memorable years are, to my eyes, the ones that saw the first turbo, the 6-wheelers and so on.

        Reduce limitations and letting the brands invest in whichever tech they believe in.

  10. Fix a price for the development cost and specify how much fuel will be available, and let the manufacturers come up with the best solution?

    1. Limit rpm to 11.000 and keep the same ICE they have now but delete the turbo’s and increase the e-power components. Use solid state batteries and have the electric motors power the front wheels alone or before the gearbox. Reduce maximum weight and convert to synthetic or plant-based fuel. Weight reduction and push for efficiency could also come from a reduced fuel cell capacity forcing the systems to use the combustable fuel as efficiently as possible..
      Kinetic energy recovery seems unavoidable and makes the system relevant for consumer vehicles.

      Without turbo’s you get better sound and lower power and less fuel consumption (in a racing environment) when limiting the revs. Also the system becomes smaller and less complex to manage. Weight is reduced as turbo’s and cooling and all the pipes weigh a lot too.

      Increased battery energy could allow the e-power to play a more important role pushing development there for more power and more efficiency. It also could play a role in torque vectoring but I think that would lead to higher cost and more complexity.

      1. w0o0dy, if it is supposedly the case that not having turbochargers is meant to reduce fuel consumption, why is it that, in fuel limited formulas, turbocharged engines tended to be so common?

        In the WEC, all of the LMP1 manufacturers in recent years went for turbocharged engines, and the LMDh cars that have been announced so far also all use turbocharged engines. The LMP900 and LMP675 regulations saw turbocharged engines being frequently used, and Group C before that also saw widespread use of turbocharged engines (and that was with a hard limit on the total amount of fuel that could be used). If a normally aspirated engine was meant to be better, then why weren’t they preferred in a series where fuel economy was even more of a priority?

        1. Long distance racing is not F1 so the engines used are not running ridiculous rpm in WEC. That is good for wear of the engine but how do you get the big power? You would need a big displacement engine (packaging nightmare and weight and fuel consumption) or you use a turbo. Besides that.. a turbo also is better capable of dealing with different rpm, better than a NA engine as you can produce more torque in low rpm. F1 is limited weight, always a lot of revs. So plenty of power just not much torque and not much bandwidth in the rpm used.
          A turbo engine is “only” fuel efficient when the turbo is not working (hard). F1 only works hard. All of the time. Current F1 engines have plenty of torque so they run higher gearing or gears and lower rpm to save fuel. That’s also why the pole laptome is so much faster than 90%of the fastest racing laps. They are saving fuel and tyres instead of going flat-out most of the race.

          1. w0o0dy, in the few times in the past that we also saw F1 use both normally aspirated engines and turbo engines in parallel under a fuel limited formula, it was the normally aspirated engines that had to be given a greater fuel allowance to ensure they would be competitive (in 1988, the normally aspirated engines were given an allowance of 215 litres of fuel in a race, versus 150 litres for a turbo engine).

            The argument that “F1 is limited weight, always a lot of revs” is one that seems to be confusing cause and effect, as the high rpm of the normally aspirated engines that have been used in the past was a consequence of the fact that the sport normally banned forced induction.

            That forced teams to have to then make the engines rev higher if they wanted to increase the power output, although even then that was really more of a late 1990s and 2000s phenomenon (the rev limit of, say, an early 1990s normally aspirated engine isn’t that different to that of some of the turbo engines that came before it).

            The use of “a lot of revs” is thus an artificial artefact of the regulations – it was done because the regulations effectively dictated that requirement to the engine manufacturers, not because it was the best technical solution.

  11. “F1 proved its reaction abilities by designing and developing ventilators during the COVID pandemic; imagine how rapidly motorsport could develop solid state batteries if pushed to do so”

    This seems like quite a leap, and conveniently ignores the fact that F1 designed ventilators were deemed unsuitable for treating COVID. Cranking out a bunch of ineffective ventilators for PR purposes is a very different task than developing cutting edge solid state battery technology, a technical challenge that has remained elusive despite many promises of its imminent arrival.

  12. Thanks for the summary.

    … a switch from V6s to downsized four-cylinder inline units as per road car trends, and the scrapping of the horrifically complex and expensive MGU-H units which sap engine noise, then compensate for energy recovery loss via all-wheel drive, as originally revealed by RaceFans.

    Surely along those lines.

    Would Porsche or Audi join even with a cheaper format like this? Does Williams VW connection mean anything?

  13. Hybrids were just a first step for manufacturers and are being replaced by BEVs quickly. So why should F1 introduce a new hybrid formula in 5(!) years time?
    As full electric would be Formula SuperE let’s go full ICE instead.
    I want the nimble cars we used to see 10 years ago, so make it 1,0 litre turbocharged. Light, powerful, fuel-efficient.

    1. Personally I think it will be the other way around. Once the full EV push has settled, probably about 10 years from now, governments who are currently pushing manufacturers to go 100% EV will have realized there are different needs in different places and hybrids will be allowed back in. I could be wrong, but that is where I would put my money. Full ICE will not happen when trying to attract big money investment in the foreseeable future.

  14. Wow, the comments section has been way more interesting and illuminating than the article! That’s not a dig at Dieter – credit to you for writing about this topic and setting the discussion rolling.

  15. I painfully agree that synthetic fuel will not attract new suppliers

    One option that I’m surprised was not mentioned anywhere is super capacitors.
    Supercapacitors can be used along any engine in a hybrid form. Their simple architecture will erase all mgu-h headaches and they don’t use rare elements.
    I can see them being used in KERS fashion if anyone remembers. Power can be fed to them by the mgu-h or brake recovery systems (that is used in road cars btw) AND in pit stops! Capacitors can be charged virtaully instantly.
    Only issue is that capacitors release their energy quite fast (currently tech has been able to slow it down to a couple of minutes), but I’m sure F1 engineering wizards can work around it.
    The VW group also has a production car that uses this tech, the Lamborghini Sian. So the automotive connection is there.
    Another option to add to the multitude available….

  16. Nigel Tufnel
    9th July 2021, 17:05

    The FIA has boxed themselves into a corner on this issue and the only way out for them, while satisfying the fans nostalgic for a more visceral experience, may be hydrogen…

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