In 2019 Formula 1 announced it was committing to be Net-Zero Carbon by 2030, setting ambitious targets from “factory to flag” and key members of our sporting community including Teams, Race Promoters, Partners, Suppliers, Broadcasters, the FIA and many more.
The challenge of achieving this carbon reduction goal is not small, with the development of a 100% sustainable fuel for cars to race in the 2026 season, we’re rapidly approaching the time where this needs to go from a theoretical lab experiment, to reality to allow the teams to test in 2025.
So far, trials of new 55% version is being used in F2 and F3 from since the start of 2023. F1 cars have been using E10 for a couple of years now. The sustainable is targeting 95% less emissions.
F1 says they’re working with all the major fuel manufacturers to develop a fuel for the 2026 Formula 1 hybrid engines that is said to be a ‘drop-in’ fuel that can be used in road cars without modification.
In the 2026 season, the FIA rules will allow teams to experiment with fuel, something heavily regulated today and while the focus is largely on aerodynamics today, it’s possible fuel chemistry will play more of a role in performance differences between cars on the grid just over 2 years from now.
If they can achieve this magic fuel, this could give much hope to legacy auto who have dragged their feet in transitioning to electric vehicles. There is estimated to around 1.5 Billion vehicles on the road, so if they can achieve this, a reduction in emissions will certainly be a good thing for the planet.
It is important to recognize that that the transition to electric vehicles is motivated by much more than simply deleting the tailpipes, powering electric vehicles with a battery and electric motors, dramatically simplifies the drivetrain and has the benefit of removing thousands of parts from the vehicle. Ultimately they will be cheaper than ICE vehicles, be faster, go further and the zero emissions is a happy bi-product.
This means if F1’s super fuel does arrive and the petrol companies are able to switch every fuel station over to use it, rather than petrol or diesel, then we’d still transition to electric vehicles from the reasons above.
Given the fuel doesn’t yet exist, we also don’t know what it will cost per litre. Formula One is the top motorsport category in the world, which comes with millions of dollars in advertising dollars and ticket sales, along with global exposure for auto brands that make sales of their production vehicles.
If the zero-emission fuel arrives, but it’s 10x the cost of race fuel, then F1 probably won’t think twice about it, but an everyday consumer certainly would. Whatever the contents is, it’ll need to be manufactured and transported, which means the cost is still likely to be more than the price of electricity, particularly as many charge EVs during the hours that attract low-cost, off-peak rates or from solar for virtually no cost.
The fuel used in the engine is created from a combination of non-food bio sources, genuine waste sources or carbon extracted from the air, which is expected to lead to a dramatic reduction in emissions but deliver the same power.
Broadcaster SkyF1 are promoting their efforts this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix.