Best case, by including green technologies in racing, what do you then think the motorsports community will look like in 10 years?
Grass to gas? A newly proposed...
Grass to gas? A newly proposed collaboration between the Argonne National Laboratory and the City of Naperville, Illinois, would convert landscape waste such as grass and leaf trimmings-into one of several different environmentally friendly fuels, including ethanol, bioelectricity, and hydrogen. Fuel that could, presumably, power a race car at the local racetrack. Rob Fisher
Up front, it's going to cost some money for folks, but I think there's a moral obligation for them to absorb some of that cost. I know it's tough and much like trying to convince racers to buy safety equipment when they'd rather be spending money on horsepower, but eventually they realize it's the smart thing to do. I think it's the same when suggesting they become involved in green racing initiatives. Specifically, when you consider changes like electronic propulsion, you're talking about technology activity that currently exists in the labs of GM that hasn't been released yet. And these will be expensive vehicles when the technology is put into production. But, give that powertrain four or five years to be developed and refined by GM, and then we'll see what racers can do to max-out the technology.
You would think the sanctioning bodies would be extremely interested in this because it would provide them an entirely new area for growth in a greener environment. Overall, this will hopefully drive the motorsports community to be more aligned by using OE technologies than it has in the recent past.
Tom Ball Tom Ball is Program Manager for In-Use Vehicle Compliance at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. A 36-year veteran with the agency, Tom has had a broad range of experience in motor vehicle emission control, fuel economy, and compliance issues. His expertise includes new vehicle emission certification, in-use vehicle emission compliance, and technical support to EPA motor vehicle emissions enforcement programs.
As a mechanical engineer and an auto enthusiast, Tom believes that motorsports can be tapped to help develop and promote green technologies for the street. He was a co-author of SAE J2880, "Recommended Green Racing Protocols," and is the EPA lead coordinator of the Green Racing Initiative.
Why do you think the motorsports community should be concerned about a green approach to racing?
Racing has a rich history of being on the cutting edge of automobile development. Innovation at the track often translated into improved street machines in areas of performance, safety, and durability. That can still happen along with using motorsports as a platform to develop advanced technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use less petroleum. This will put motorsports back in front of technology development in addition to focusing on entertainment. It can also capture the interest of a new generation of fans who have grown up in a high-tech automotive world. The EPA is pleased to partner with racing organizations in this effort, as we are doing with the American Le Mans Series.
Short-term, what changes do you think are worth considering?
We are pleased to see more interest within the motorsports community in environmental and energy concerns. Fortunately, there are a number of near-term strategies that racing series can explore to address those concerns without adversely affecting the competition and excitement of racing.
In the short-term, racing organizations could consider starting to emphasize fuel efficiency in their racing rules. This could be done by limiting fuel flow or by limiting the total energy allocated rather than simply limiting power or restricting air. It should also be possible for some racing series to introduce alternative sustainable fuels to the mix. More progressive organizations could consider ways to encourage more advanced technologies such as energy recovery systems.
Finally, all racing series could consider ways to reduce their carbon footprint for individual events.