Sustainable Engines to Power Formula 1 in 2026, With Aims to Crank Up Volume

Formula 1 plans to push for sustainable engine standards in 2026, catching up to the auto industry.
Brad Bergan

Formula 1 aims to reduce its carbon footprint to reach net-zero carbon levels before or in 2030, according to an initial report from the BBC.


Sustainable Fuel to Power F1 Engines in 2026 races

The next chance for engine regulation changes is 2026, and "a working group including specialists from car manufacturers and energy suppliers is to investigate how best to combine hybrid engines with carbon-neutral fuels," BBC reports.

"At the top of our priorities for both sustainability and our sport is building a roadmap for the internal combustion engine that addresses and environmental goals of our automotive partners and society," said Formula 1 in a statement.

"Although the cars account for a very small percentage of our carbon footprint as a sport (0.7%), it is important the most visual part of our sport is sustainable and can have real-world benefits," added F1 in the statement.

Formula 1 studies synthetic fuels for 100 percent sustainability

"We also believe there is not a single solution to the engine technologies of the future but a sustainability fuel hybrid engine will be a significant moment for the sport and the automotive sector," said the company.

Honda has already made plans to leave F1 at the end of 2022, to redirect its resources toward more sustainable engine technologies — which means Formula 1 can't ignore the major paradigm shift underway across the entire automotive industry.

Formula 1 engines will need to meet a standard of 10% sustainable content beginning in 2021, but to make the full 100% sustainability standard, the company is investigating synthetic fuels which "capture carbon from the atmosphere in their manufacture and are therefore carbon-neutral," reports the BBC.

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Formula 1 Moritz Graf
The volume of Formula 1 races needs to be turned up, says Horner of the Red Bull team. Source: Moritz Graf / Unsplash

Turning up the volume on Formula 1 hybrid engines

However, Formula 1's plans might have to include a means of addressing the inordinate sounds of vehicle engines.

The V6 turbo-hybrid engines used since 2014 are unpopular, because of the reduced volume of engine sounds, in addition to the cost compared to the normally aspirated V8s from earlier generations.

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, has said present-day engines had transformed Formula 1 races into "a rock concert with the volume turned down."

"I think the volume on Formula 1 does need to be turned up, it's like going to a rock concert with the volume turned down," he said to Channel 4. "I think for the sport, they need to come up with an engine for the future that addresses three criteria."

Formula 1 Sven Brandsma
Sustainability requirements aren't due until 2026. Source: Sven Brandsma / Unsplash

All-electric racing needs to be affordable, loud

Horner thinks any new solution needs to be affordable, and loud enough to generate a level of sound equal to V8 or V10 levels of sound, reports Planet F1. "I think the sound is something the fans miss, it's something we miss," he said.

"And it does have to have a social responsibility in its sustainability. They are the three criteria that the future engine needs to address, but that's not scheduled until 2026 at the moment," explained Horner.

The all-electric standard is becoming standard not only for established racing industries, but futuristic ones, too. Earlier this year, the first all-electric flying car races were organized, bringing one of the most popular sci-fi tropes into the realm of sustainable possibility. But no matter how advanced racing vehicles — or the fuels powering them — become, fans who grew up with loud Formula 1 races will prefer the loud, rock-concert cacophony to the silent, tamer alternative. Even if the loudness is artificial.

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