Climate Action

What's driving sustainability? A report by Futerra and FIA

A report with the FIA, the global governing body of global motorsport

25.01.21Peter Speight

When Futerra decided to work with Formula One on their sustainability strategy, we were keenly aware of the challenge of working with a sport built on fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine. However, we soon realised that the F1 team were determined to make their sport future-fit. We helped them rise to the challenge, with a commitment to Net Zero Carbon operations by 2030, along with plans for sustainable race weekends and a more diverse and inclusive sport from top to bottom.  One year on from that milestone work, the Futerra team have completed a report with the FIA, the governing body of global motorsport, looking at the role that motorsport has played in contributing to society, health and the environment.

The result is a holistic review showcasing 26 stories that focus on innovations, processes and practices all originated, or accelerated by motorsport and subsequently the positive impact on society. The result is also surprising; motorsport has been a hotbed of progress, at speed– from efficiency gains in the Internal combustion engine, to reducing the energy use of supermarket fridges, to honing the way that surgeons and medical teams work in hospitals.

Harnessing this spirit of solution–driven competition is what motorsport seems to have done best. The difference now, and what makes this report so exciting, is that its focus has shifted to an end goal of operating sustainably. For motorsport to survive, and thrive, it must sharply reduce its environmental footprint to a sustainable level. We really are entering the decade of critical action- and only harnessing innovation at speed is going to help us prevent catastrophic climate change in the time available.

What the FIA report serves to show is that the world of motorsport is turning its attention towards the next frontier – Formula E is accelerating the advancement of electric engines, and F1 is pioneering a drive towards zero emission synthetic fuels. If motorsport, the traditional face of gas–guzzling V12 engines, is deciding to take on climate change, then so can the rest of the world.

At Futerra we talk about footprint and brain print. Whilst the fuel in F1 race cars accounts for just 0.7% of their operational carbon footprint (a very low footprint)- their net zero commitment sent out a big message (a high brain print).  So too does our report with the FIA. It shows the intention and the will to change. From Formula E pushing the limits of how fast electric vehicles can travel and charge, to Formula 1 deploying hybrid technology coupled with zero carbon sustainable fuels, the potential exists to inspire and empower road car users to follow suit.

Just as the seatbelt originated in F1, and became the norm worldwide, could synthetic fuels, fuel cells or ultra–fast charging EVs do so too?  Imagine if, by 2040 all the world‘s road cars were running with zero emissions, that motorsport had played its part in accelerating the technologies required to do so, and had inspired a generation to use them?

We cannot know what the next generation will choose to do when it comes to transport, and the possibilities are endless. But for the billions that travel by car each day the potential exists for their journeys to be undertaken without the carbon footprint of today is real. Motorsport can offer them an inspiring glimpse, today, of what might be possible tomorrow.

The stories in our report are impressive, enjoy reading them. But for us the reason why this is a significant project for Futerra is because it’s evidence we have reached the tipping point. The world is moving in the right direction. The race is on for a world with net zero emissions, and even motorsport has joined the start gate. It just depends how fast we can make it round the track.

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