Sprint Cars like this one run on methanol. It's less than a baby step to 100 percent envir
Beyond hybrids and electrics, there are fuel alternatives in more traditional internal combustion engines such as zero-sulfur or "clean" diesel, E10 (which you can buy at many gas stations today), Ethanol (which can be manufactured from a variety of homegrown grains such as sugar), E85 cellulosic Ethanol (which is made from non-food fibers such as algae, lumber industry waste, etc.), and more.
Then there is a whole series of new technologies on the horizon such as something called a regenerative energy recovery system. In a nutshell, you would have an onboard system that would capture and store dissipated energy from a specific vehicle function, braking for example. That energy could then be tapped into by the driver in an on-demand capacity. Larsen explains that concept in terms of racing by saying, "Imagine if you had a push to pass button. You could decide when and where to use the stored energy based on track position, number of laps completed, and so on. Perhaps you are drafting down a straightaway behind somebody, hit the button, and you pull out and blast by the guy. Or maybe you use it to accelerate by somebody coming out of a key corner."
While the concept of a regenerative energy recovery system adds another layer of strategy to racing, it is just one example of the type of exciting green technology that can find its way into motorsports.
Argonne's fuel processor turns petroleum-based fuels, such as gasoline, into hydrogen plus
The IndyCar Series made PR waves when they introduced their alternative racing fuel push with their exclusive E85 deal. But beyond the admirable efforts of Indy, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) were the ones who gained the initial look from the team. "The folks at IMSA and ALMS have been the biggest supporters of our efforts," says Larsen of the Georgia based road racing sanction. Since their inception, ALMS has had a technical rule book that not only allows, but encourages, manufacturers to develop cutting-edge innovations, such as alternative automotive fuels. That made them a perfect fit for what Larsen and the team were trying to accomplish.
"The series has always embraced technical development, and it's not just the manufacturer supported teams. We have independent teams who are bringing their own technologies," says Scott Atherton, president and CEO of ALMS. "There was a time not long ago when we weren't going to a spec tire, a spec chassis, or a spec fuel. People predicted that to be our downfall. In somewhat of an ironic turn the industry is now coming to us."
In addition to E10, ALMS currently lists E85 (a cellulosic ethanol made from 100 percent wood waste) as well as zero-sulfur clean diesel as alterative fuels currently in use in competition. "The reason we chose these fuels is that we believe that they represent the fuel station of the future. These will be the three choices consumers will see at the pump."
Racing with alternative fuels and alternative powertrains, such as direct injection motors, has not had an adverse impact on the racing that ALMS puts on the track, quite the opposite actually. "We've demonstrated that you can race just as competitively, just as exciting, just as entertaining, but do it in more of an environmentally friendly way," says Atherton. "If you can achieve that, then why wouldn't you? That's something we're very proud to be leaders in, but I don't expect to be the only one for very long."
Atherton is emphatic that while ALMS is working with the government on the Green Racing Protocols, it by no means is an exclusive relationship. The EPA and DOE are both actively lobbying other racing sanctioning bodies to follow ALMS' lead. And that's where the root of this movement has to begin-at the sanctioning body level.