Future Fuels for Motorsport discussed at EEMS Conference

The EEMS (Energy Efficient Motorsport) ‘Future Fuels in Motorsport’ conference hosted at Oxford Brookes University last week was attended by over 100 people from across the motorsport industry including amateur and professional competitors, championship organisers, governing bodies, suppliers, teams, academics, consultants, engineers and representatives from the car and fuel industry.

The main objective of the seminar was to stimulate a broader debate and address the barriers regarding the wider uptake of alternative fuels and powertrains – that is, all technologies that provide motive power including biofuels, alternative fuels, hybrids and electric motors – being used within the sport. The consensus at close of conference was that the need for change was universally recognised, that everyone involved in the sport has a responsibility to bring future fuels  into mainstream motorsport and that above all, the process needs pro-active co-ordination to be truly effective.

Following a welcome address from Geoff Goddard, Professor in Motorsport Engineering Design at Oxford Brookes University and an EEMS Ambassador, Garel Rhys, Professor Emiritus at Cardiff University and Motorsport Development UK board member, gave a keynote speech on developments in the mainstream automotive industry outlining the fuel technologies being researched. After this, David Brabham, fresh from his GT1 victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, gave a heartfelt speech on the motorsport industry’s responsibility to pave the way forward with regard to fuels and technology in order to help reduce its impact upon climate change. “When I was a child, all I was really interested in was football,” he said. “My sons are obviously interested in football but their main concern is our planet – it’s up to all of us to make our children’s future viable and sustainable.”

After this, five speakers took to the stage to commence the first session on future fuel options and outlined some of the breakthrough work that they have been pioneering in powering race and rally cars with bioethanol, gas-to-liquid diesels (GTL), compressed natural gas, hydrogen and hybrid-electric technology. Panellists highlighted how E85 (85% bioethanol, 15% petrol) and other first generation alternative fuels are available and are being used with increasing success in various motorsport disciplines. However, they also highlighted that second generation fuels are around the corner – including cellulosic bioethanol blends, bio-gas blends, biomass-to-liquid (BTL) diesels and battery technologies. Clearly, the introduction of Future Fuels will be a dynamic process to which the motorsport industry will need to be alert.

Individually, diesel was covered by Richard Karlstetter from Shell Global Solutions, who announced the news that BTL diesel, a ‘second generation’ diesel fuel, will make its debut at Le Mans in 2008. CNG (compressed natural gas) was discussed by Roland Wolk from OMV Gas, who highlighted that a new biogas (CNG with renewable content) is being used now with success in the Austrian Rally Championship. Bio-ethanol was discussed by John McNeil, an independent energy consultant, who explained the second generation cellulosic bioethanol will continue to improve the wheel-to-wheel efficiency of biofuels and then, Jon Horsley from Zytek talked about the relevance of hybrid-electric technology, including energy recovery systems and how their development for road car application can be accelerated through motorsport. In addition, hydrogen was given a thorough shakedown by Eelco Rietveld who created Formula Zero in 2003, promoting a new zero-emission race class for hydrogen fuel cell karts. His presentation included news that Formula Zero is set to debut in 2008 with 11 competitors already signed up to participate.

Regulation and scrutineering was the subject of the second of the day’s three sessions with another five speakers answering questions posed by Brendan Connor, chairman of CENEX and Motorsport Development UK board member. First was David Lapworth, Technical Director at Prodrive and an EEMS Ambassador, whose message was simple. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing this – we’ve just got to stop stalling and get on with it,” he said. BTCC Chief Scrutineer Peter Riches and John Symes from the MSA outlined the fact that when approached in the right way, hurdles can be overcome which will lead to wider take-up of new fuel technologies – but that a need for careful consideration for the safety, affordability and policing of such new fuels was inevitable. Roland Ermers from Ricardo gave an overview of an intelligent fuel flow measuring device that his company developed together with EEMS and which would allow different fuels to compete on equal footing within the same race. Finally, Paul King from the Auto Cycle Union talked about the initiatives that his federation has supported in two-wheeled sport and also the progress and problems encountered along the way.

The final session centred on conversion and participation where four case studies were presented from competitors at all levels of mainstream motorsport who have been early adopters of energy efficient technologies. Martin Ogilvie from Prototype Car Design gave a presentation on his electric-powered ‘Watt4’ hillclimb vehicle and then, Mark Lemmer, MD at Barwell Motorsport, answered questions regarding the team’s outstanding success in the British GT Championship with the E85 bioethanol-fuelled Aston Martin DBRS9. Paul Andrews from Oaktec talked about the Honda Insight hybrid rally car, which is reigning Class A champion in the Formula 1000 Rally Stages Championship despite initially encountering confusion and derision from fellow competitors. Finally, Graham Fuller from Minister Power talked about the E85 bioethanol fuelled Caterhams being used in Formula Woman – Britain’s first single-make Championship to convert to a biofuel.

All sessions from the conference are available as audio downloads from the EEMS website – log onto www.eemsonline.co.uk/posteventinfo/futurefuels. In addition, presentations from the conference are also available to download from the site.

EEMS is an industry initiative whose vision is to work with the UK motorsport industry to put energy efficiency at the heart of modern motorsport. It is backed by Government through Motorsport Development UK, a public private partnership supported by four Regional Development Agencies and the DTI.