Porsche will start testing a lower-carbon biofuel in racing

A barrel of fuel in front of a Porsche racing car in its garage.
Enlarge / Porsche is working on synthetic fuels and will begin testing them in racing as early as next year.

In the grand scheme of things, the fuel used by racing cars on track amounts to a mere rounding error compared to the carbon dioxide emitted by all the spectators driving to watch each race. But optics are still important, and electric racing cars aren’t really suitable for use in endurance racing or Formula 1, so the industry is looking at lower-carbon (or even carbon-neutral) fuels as a way to keep using internal combustion engines.

Formula 1 has announced its plan to become carbon-neutral by 2030, and sustainable fuels are going to be part of that, but they’re not the only game in town. On Tuesday, Porsche revealed that the 2021 and 2022 seasons of Porsche Supercup—a race series for identical Porsche 911 racing cars—will be powered by Esso renewable racing fuel, “a blend of primarily advanced biofuels,” according to the press release.

But this biofuel blend is just the first version of Esso’s renewable racing fuel. Starting next year, Porsche will start testing the second-generation Esso renewable fuel. And that one will incorporate synthetic fuel, made from hydrogen and carbon dioxide at a plant in Chile that Porsche is developing with Siemens. By 2022, Porsche and Siemens are targeting 34,000 gallons (130,000 L) of synthetic fuel production, increasing to 14.5 million gallons (55 million L) by 2024 and 145 million gallons (550 million L) by 2026.

“The electrification of our vehicles is of highest priority to us. eFuels are a good complement to our powertrain strategy. They allow our customers to drive cars with conventional combustion engines as well as plug-in hybrids with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. The collaboration with ExxonMobil enables us to test the eFuels under demanding conditions on the racing track. This is a further step towards making eFuels an affordable and lower greenhouse gas emission substitute to conventional fuels,” said Michael Steiner, member of the Porsche executive board and research and development.

Porsche believes that this synthetic fuel will result in 85 percent less CO2 getting back into the atmosphere than the equivalent amount of conventional gasoline.