The World’s First Sustainable Race Car Makes You Go Yum Yum

The concept is good – a completely sustainable Formula 3 race car. But the products used, well, that may be another story. The race car is made from woven flax and carrot pulp as well as recycled carbon fibre and recycled resin. In addition it uses biodiesel made from chocolate and animal fats and is lubricated with plant oils. Hungry anyone?

According to EPSRC funded researcher Dr. Kerry Kirwan with the University of Warwick, the car is not just environmentally friendly, but also fast boasting a top speed of 135 mph and can go 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds. Oh, and did I mention it’s turbo charged to give it more torque?

Several race car drivers have given the concept car the seal of approval including Lewis Hamilton, a top Formula 1 competitor and Adam Carroll, A1 Grand Prix championship driver, as well as Ross Brown, the team owner of the F1 team. The car will make its racing debut in the Formula 3 Championship final at Brands Hatch on October 17, 2009. The goal is to prove to the world that you can have high performance cars while still being environmentally friendly.

“Being sustainable and green can be incredibly sexy, fun and fast,” says Kirwan. “Even though people’s perception of motorsport is that it’s wasteful, this project is aiming to show ways for the future, for people to race and be green.”

For those motorsports fans, you may have heard that in 2007, the IndyCar Series wowed the world when it debuted in 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol cars. As compared to other racing fuels, the cars were faster, had better torque and better fuel economy. Following suit, in 2008, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) debuted cellulosic E85. The ethanol was derived from waste wood, and several teams took the winner’s circle using the cellulosic E85, most notably the Corvette Racing Team.

ALMS took it one more step by launching its Green Challenge™ award and trophy for both a prototype and Grand Touring (GT) class team. The winner is the car that demonstrates the best overall performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact during the race. However, to date, no car has been designed to be fully sustainable–until now with the launch of the ‘chocolate car‘.

Here are a few more details on the sustainability elements of the car.

  • The barge board is made from three dimensional woven hemp. In addition, the barge board has a flax bib — this is the same material that is used to make tablecloths or napkins.
  • The air intake in the radiator has a catalytic converter on board that converts low level ozone into oxygen as you drive.
  • The steering wheel is comprised of refuse carrot pulp that comes from the soup or juice industries.
  • The side pods and engine cover are made out of recycled carbon fibre from the aerospace industry. It might not be good enough for space but it’s good enough for the road.
  • The car is also built using a resin from PET bottles, such as coke bottles, that would otherwise go into a land fill.
  • The engine has been converted to run on biodiesel that is produced from waste materials such as chocolate, animal fats or vegetable oils. Chocolate? Really? I’m sorry, but is there really such a thing as ‘waste chocolate’? I think not. And isn’t the world upset about using “food for fuel already?
  • All lubricants used in the car are derived from plant oils.

“There is a wide recognition in the motor sport industry that it needs to be greener to be more relevant to society and therefore to get the viewing figures and sponsorship that allows them to go racing,” says Kirwan. “And this is the means of showing people how it can be done. We are very environmentally friendly, we are not damaging the environment but we are still very competitive in motorsport terms.”

We won’t have to wait long to determine if the car is truly competitive (Oct. 17 to be exact). And I wonder if those who will actually be at the race will be craving carrots or chocolate?

Joanna Schroeder

Joanna is a writer and consultant specializing in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture issues.