Written by Isha Reshmi Mohan, Edited by Sean McKean
Formula 1's mission towards sustainability is well known to fans, as the sport has made significant changes to race formats, such as removing refueling during races, and implementing various sustainability initiatives outside of race week. These changes are mentioned on the Sustainability page of the F1 website.
It may seem unfair to make direct comparisons, given that Formula E cars are all-electric and started with a mission to be the most carbon-neutral championship and has already achieved this goal quickly. In fact, the GSBS ranked Formula E as the Best Total Performer in the 2022 Global Sustainability Benchmark in Sports, with a record-breaking benchmark score of 80/100 for Top Performer in sustainability.
Formula E has made impressive strides in reducing its carbon footprint. According to DHL, in just the second season of Formula E in 2017, their carbon footprint had already been reduced from 25,000 tons of CO2-eq to 12,000 tons of CO2-eq. In 2020, Formula E started using biofuel (fuel from waste oil or cooking oil and wood oil) during a testing session at Valencia. This resulted in a significant reduction in carbon emissions caused by ocean and road freight, a year ahead of schedule.
Additionally, Formula E recycles 100% of the parts used in their cars, including tires and batteries. Damaged chassis, collected as early as Season 1, are given a second life in the form of non-woven products such as fabrics and thermoplastics. All parts are transported to their warehouse in Donington Park at the end of the season for recycling. Formula E also collaborates with industry partner Umicore which has helped in recycling the GEN1 battery by extracting over 95% of metals and recycling over 60% of the cells with remaining residual power.
They had also reduced its tire allocation by 25% per single race competition, and all tires are 100% recycled after use. The competition only allows one type of hybrid tire per season, engineered for any weather or surface, and only two sets of tires per race per car, resulting in 30-50% fewer tires being transported. Mirko Perracchio, Michelin Motorsport's Formula E Manager, confirmed that the tires are recycled for various purposes such as being used in cement plants as a replacement for fossil fuels or as various forms of indoor and outdoor floors.
The Gen 3 cars, which debuted earlier this season after their reveal in Monaco last year, are expected to have zero net carbon emissions. According to the sustainability report by Formula E, the bodywork of these cars uses recycled carbon fiber from retired GEN2 cars, reducing the overall amount of virgin carbon fiber used. The tires of Gen 3 cars contain 26% recycled fibers and natural rubber.
Turning to Formula 1, which has historically been considered the least environmentally conscious sport, a report from 2019 revealed that the championship was responsible for generating 256,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. In response, Formula One set a goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Over the past four years, teams, employees, and event conductors have contributed to reaching this goal.
Some of the actions taken by Formula One include installing solar panels at Paul Ricard and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which generate enough year-round energy to offset the entire Grand Prix. The Circuit de Catalunya and the Sakhir International Circuit are powered by 100% renewable energy. Formula One teams are also working to make their offices and facilities more sustainable. F1's offices now use 100% renewable energy, and the company, along with many F1 teams, has earned the highest sustainability management accreditation awarded by the FIA. F1's broadcast operations are exploring alternative biofuels to run their generators, where available in markets.
The new generation of Formula 1 cars, introduced this year, runs on 'E10' fuel, a blend of 90% fuel and 10% renewable ethanol. However, finding an equivalent to the Formula E model for transportation and reducing the need to fly around different continents for races is still a challenge for Formula 1. The sport is in talks with DHL to explore sustainable transportation options and aims to find a better way to organize the race calendar.
According to the 2026 engine regulations published by FIA, no new fossil carbon will be burned, and the hybrid components will produce three times the electric power, resulting in reduced fuel consumption. The new cars are expected to have over 1000 horsepower and could potentially be louder. The regulations also include an engine-specific cost cap, the banning of expensive manufacturing materials and systems such as the MGU-H, and the use of standardized components to reduce overall costs. Constructors will be limited to using three power units per car per season. The regulations also mandate recycling options for batteries, and materials like cobalt will be recycled at the end of the MGU-K's life.
Overall, both Formula E and Formula 1 have made significant progress in their sustainability efforts, with Formula E leading the way in terms of being a fully electric and carbon-neutral championship. Formula 1 is working towards its goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, implementing various sustainability initiatives, and exploring ways to reduce its environmental impact across all aspects of the sport.