Brazil and Indonesia in Ethanol Pact
Alstom and American Electric Power to Bring CO2 Capture Technology to Commercial Scale by 2011

Motorsport Can Play Key Role in Developing and Promoting Energy-Efficient Technologies

The motorsport industry is uniquely positioned to help develop and transfer advanced energy efficiency concepts into normal road going cars, argued Peter Digby, chairman of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) and managing director of Xtrac, at an inaugural Energy Efficient Motorsport Conference held today, prior to the American Le Mans Series 12-hour endurance race at Sebring.

As an international entertainment industry with millions of fans globally, motorsport also has the potential to inform and educate worldwide audiences regarding energy efficient technologies and green issues facing the automotive sector, he said.

The MIA event was supported by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Shell, UK Trade & Investment and Xtrac. Xtrac is a transmission provider that supplies both to the motorsport industry as well as to energy efficiency projects. Working closely with Zytek—another company with a strong motorsport pedigree—the two companies produced a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid variant of the smart car. (Earlier post.)

The plug-in diesel hybrid.

The low cost system was prepared for assessment by car manufacturers in a prototype vehicle that fully meets the requirements of the UK government’s Ultra Low Carbon Car Challenge. This initiative is aimed at producing a vehicle with exceptionally low CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km, equivalent to a fuel consumption of at least 3.8 l/100km (62 mpg US). Moreover, it does so without compromising the driveability, performance, comfort, features and safety expected from a car in this segment.

With depleting oil reserves and climate change top of the political agenda, energy efficiency is hugely important. If we don’t do anything about these issues our society will change significantly.

New technical solutions being proposed have to be accepted by the consumer and this is where motorsport has a key role to play. Motorsport is a highly popular form of entertainment with huge following worldwide and ideally placed to promote energy efficient technology. Motorsport engineers are also used to rapid product development and can apply their skills to help speed up the introduction of new energy efficient technologies to normal road vehicles.

—Peter Digby

Digby said motor racing has rapidly accelerated gear design, manufacture and materials development with more efficient, compact and lightweight transmissions able to handle much higher levels of power and torque—the latest F1 gearboxes are smaller and almost half the mass, yet handle virtually twice the power.

Minimizing weight and frictional losses throughout the vehicle has a direct impact on carbon emissions and fuel efficiency and gaining extra mileage is as important to motor racing as it is to normal road cars.

Xtrac is also working on combining mechanical flywheel systems for energy efficient power density management with the engine and transmission, according to Digby, referring to recent regulation changes in F1, which permit the use of brake regeneration systems from 2009. (Earlier post.)

The MIA Energy Efficient Motorsport (EEMS) conference showcased, for the first time to a US and international senior executive audience, continuing motorsport industry development activity in energy efficiency within the competitive world of motorsport.



If they are serious, they had better get with it or they are going to get left behind, eating dust.


Have you seen the new F1 Honda ?

Harvey D.

If the F-1 people can come up with this, why all the engineers working for the Big-3 + all other major car manufacturers didn't do it 10 years ago?


Why not a WRC rally series testing the maximum range/performance for all wheel drive hybrids? To promote the technology. It would be interesting to see who would sponser cars? It would at least be nice to see Honda race a diesel against Audi... with biodiesel

Rafael Seidl

Harvey -

it's not that automotive engineers don't know how to improve fuel economy. Indeed, the fuel *efficiency* of engines and drive train has improved some 10-25% since 1990, depending on make and model.

It's just that customers haven't been willing to pay extra for it, so product marketing managers have piled on features that have negated these improvements. Gas used to be dirt cheap in the US and compared to Japan or Europe, it's still cheap today. Only very recently have (some) US consumers started to attach any value at all to CO2 emissions or cared about energy supply risks. The combination of hurricane Katrina, Al Gore's movie and the fiasco in Iraq all appear to have concentrated American minds on these linked issues.

US auto makers were wishfully thinking that the oil prices would fall again, quickly and far. After all, vehicle size, fuel consumption and profit margins have all been correlated in the past. Customers used to pay more for extra space, comfort/luxury, power and macho looks (alloy wheels, SUV chassis etc.) Those things haven't gone out of style altogether, but demand for higher fuel economy/lower CO2 emissions is modulating the premium the industry can charge for them. Indeed, some truck and SUV models have to be sold at a loss these days to get them off dealer lots at all.

Separately, governments have mandated higher crash safety standards. This tends to increase vehicle weight, prompting a further increase in rated engine power to maintain acceleration and hill climbing performance - which means you're even closer to idling when you're trundling along at constant speed.

Btw, the German car industry is in much the same bind and mindset as its US counterparts are. European tastes are different, due in part to decades of high fuel taxes. In a way, those now represent a lifeline in that they have forced European auto makers to keep the nose to grindstone on fuel economy. They never lost the ability to build smaller, lighter cars.

The racing industry is now under pressure to once again make itself relevant by acting as an incubator for technology that can increase profits on regular cars. In terms of BSFC, racing engines and transmissions are actually just about the most efficient in the world. Even diesels are now being used in certain races. Race cars feature ultra-light materials and advanced aerodynamics. Many of the insights gained have in fact trickled down to regular cars over the years.

What's missing now is an all-electric race series that really beats up on batteries, supercaps, power electronics, electric motors and the associated control software. The Tesla Roadster, Venturi Venture, Ariel Atom EV and similar designs all demonstrate that EV propulsion and racing performance are no longer mutually exclusive. Petrolheads will surely find the silence deafening.


Rafael, I agree totally on Formula EV, it's what we need right now. Battery changing in the pits if needs be for full race distance.

What do you think about the FIA's proposal to switch to biodiesel TDs around 2011? That approach would certainly add more to the development of fuel-efficiency technologies for real-world road-going vehicles than today's 19,000 rpm V8 petrol units. Worked well at LeMans.

Mark A

Yes, I have written to both competing open wheel series in America to do just this. I proposed for them to move toward an electric powered car, perhaps with an onboard generator, which could be a "spec" generator. And do it before nascar. That would get my attention. Nothing escalates development better than racing, (or war).

But as nascar has just this year switched to UNLEADED gasoline, I know they will not go there. And the open wheel series are in a struggle with each other, much less try to develop something new.

The new F-1 regulation changes are intriguing. Cant wait to see more.


"In terms of BSFC, racing engines and transmissions are actually just about the most efficient in the world."

Which racing engines are you refering to? I am sure that full load BSFC for say F1 engines can't be too impressive. Sure the ISFC may be good but you can't help losing a lot from mechanical friction with engines running at 16 - 20k RPM. Sure the engine mechanical friction is optimised but you still can't beat the physics with high engine revs. Obviously the transmission has no influence on BSFC.

Futhermore these engines must run at Lambda 0.9 or richer to achieve the highest BMEP which also hits the BSFC. In the case of Turbo engines that may be even worse of course with enrichment to save the turbine.

I read a quote from one F1 engine builder who claimed that direct injection could be used to improve fuel consumption. The reasoning was that a lot of fuel is lost out the exhaust as a consequence of extreme valve overlap. Once again that is not good news for the BSFC.

In any case, the best BSFC from Otto or Diesel engines is achieved at about 50% of maximum power. I doubt that too many race engines are optimised for that part of the speed/load range. But who knows, maybe the laws of thermodynamics have been revised lately.

Rafael Seidl

daydreamer -

I was referring to BSFC in the point where it is minimal in the engine map, not that at full load. F1 engines and transmissions are optimized for minimal friction simply because the designers need to minimize heat rejection via the coolant because there's little room for radiators. Ergo, the high efficiency of F1 engines is not a result of new-fangled concern about CO2 emissions - it's just that they need those engines to not blow up during two consecutive races.

As for direct injection, there's a trade-off. F1 engines run so hot that the fresh charge heats up quite a bit even before the intake valve closes, reducing the air mass than can be aspirated. Port fuel injection leads to early evaporation, increasing fresh charge mass. It also gives the air-fuel mixture more time to homogenize, an important consideration at 19000RPM.

Direct injection, e.g. the new spray-guided type BMW and Mercedes use in some of their production car models, does permit greater negative valve overlap because there's no fuel slip to worry about. This improves scavenging and reduces cycle-to-cycle variations in internal EGR. Direct injection during the compression stroke cools the trapped gas, permitting slightly higher compression ratios at normal engine speeds without any risk of knocking. Of course, much less time is available for mixture homogenization.

However, F1 engines run at ludicrous speed, so high in fact that the engine knock doesn't even have time to cause any damage. Therefore, compression ratios are anyhow much higher than in production cars, which is why F1 engines should spend as little time as possible at low RPM (I'm using the word low loosely here).

I'm pretty sure F1 engineers know all about direct injection but have concluded that on balance, it makes no sense for their application. Also, it's entirely possible the regulations simply don't permit it at the moment.

Rafael Seidl

Mark A -

I wasn't thinking of PHEV racing. That concept makes little sense to me, race cars need to feature the highest power-to-weight ratio possible for the chosen propulsion technology. Once the batteries are empty, what good is a puny genset going to do?

What might make more sense - from a marketing perspective - is to set up a league for true EV cars, preferably gorgeous to look at, driven exclusively by equally attractive female pilots (you know, the Sabine Schmitz's of the world). If electric cars really are for grrrls, let them cry havoc and have at it. After all, affluent women represent a sizeable addressable market and, it's not as if they didn't enjoy driving a set of sleek wheels every bit as much as the boys do.



Since when do racecar engineers measure part load BSFC? If you have the data to support your claim good, but I really doubt it. Direct injection was banned for F1 racing a couple of years ago inspite of some teams being ready and willing to use it.


Hmm the EV-500 sounds kind of catchy. Wonder if it was
held in LA or GA if it would be an event?
Get big name drivers and have em start out with some basic rules for the EV.
The first year would be a blast just to see.


The idle speed (minimum speed) of a F1 engine
is about 4000 RPM !!

tom deplume

Indy cars are running E100 this year. Perhaps NASCAR could show what could be done with E85.


NASCAR is going with "The Car of Tomorrow". It is supposed to even the field, since 1 and 2 car garages will be at a less of a disadvantage against well funded teams. With those millions sitting around, perhaps they can sock it in a project, say an "Electric Series" or a "Biofuel Series" to go with their Nextel Cup, Busch, and Craftsman Truck Series. There, they can have all the cutting edge technologies they can handle, while leaving the other leagues largely unchanged.

Tom Deplume, Mark A,
Since C2H5OH allows for higher compression ratios (thus higher efficiencies), ethanol blends/straight ethanol fuel might be something NASCAR to look into.

Rafael Seidl

daydreamer -

I have my info from Prof. Fritz Indra who designed engines for F1, F3 and DTM before he was chief engineer for GM Powertrain for a decade. Race engines get among the highest BSFC in g/kWh of all engines (comparing same ignition mechanism, similar displacement and NA with NA, turbo with turbo, of course). And yes, F1 engineers do measure BSFC all across the engine map and, many other parameters.

See also: Hack, Indra, "Mehrventilmotoren", Motor Buch Verlag, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-613-02260-5 (in German)

Wake Up Call

Wake UP! The Oil Barrons have had control and STILL Controll the auto industry and everything to do with it! Along with the auto industry comes coal and diesel fluided items. The question becomes: How long are the American Corporations going to be operated and pulled by the nose ring before they jump to freedom? HOW about going ALL solar? HOW about going ALL solar by using naturally made bio-made plastic magnets to power the cars of the future? BE THE FIRST AMERICA???? WHY follow the OIL leaders orders...


Why should I car pool? so NASCAR can keep polluting? Give me a break!


I have been trying to raise the funding since 2005 to compete in the Rally America Series using SVO and biodiesel. Sponsorship would be greatly appreciated.

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