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F1 reveals vision for future engine era amid 'crude' hybrid ban

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F1 reveals vision for future engine era amid 'crude' hybrid ban
By:
Co-author: Luke Smith
Feb 18, 2020, 1:39 PM

Formula 1 chiefs says government plans to ban the sales of new hybrid cars within the next 15 years are "crude" - as they insist the sport can be a catalyst for a revolution in environmentally-friendly engine technology.

As part of a push by governments to cut back on carbon emissions, there has been a move by many countries to outlaw the sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid engines in the next few years – with Britain announcing recently its push for a ban to be in place by 2035.

That move has prompted questions on what direction F1 will have go in the future.

It has closely aligned itself with hybrid engines since 2014, and needs to make a decision in the next few years about where the engine rules will go beyond 2025.

But while a hybrid ban on the roads could prompt manufacturers to question whether it is worth investing in the technology for grand prix racing, F1's top figures think that hybrid solutions have plenty of offer in driving forward a better solution for the wider world.

Asked by Motorsport.com about the impact of the hybrid ban, F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn said: "I don't think we necessarily know where we're going, to be honest. I think that governments need to look at the whole picture. I think we need to look at the dust-to-dust carbon impact of personal transportation.

"I think picking on a specific technology is crude. For me as an engineer it doesn't make sense. [It should be] this is where we are now, this is where we want to be, what's the best solution in that process."

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With F1 moving towards an increased use of bio fuels, Brawn senses an opportunity for the sport to lead the way in driving forward developments of sustainable fuel – such as that produced by carbon capture.

"Governments have to be firm. They have to force people to do things and they have to fund the way of doing things. But if we find a solution with synthetic fuels, for instance, where we capture the carbon out of the atmosphere, convert it into fuel, using renewable electricity, we've then got a solution where the infrastructure is in place for transportation," he said.

"Now there are needs like city centres where you need to move the pollution out, you can't afford to have it, so there's hydrogen, electricity, etc. But for me, it just seems inconceivable to have an infrastructure that can support only electric vehicles in 15 years time."

He added: "If we drive that [sustainable fuel] technology, we believe F1 can become the driving force. If the FIA say 'right it has to run on sustainable or synthetic fuels, and that's the only way you can compete in F1', you can be sure that that will drive that technology.

"And all the oil companies will be involved with that because they know they've got to find alternative streams in the future. So we can be the catalyst behind changing these things."

F1 CEO Chase Carey thinks that the idea of committing to electric cars only as the future is wrong, as he backs Brawn in suggesting that hybrid technology can deliver answers.

"I've read a lot of experts, so to speak, on the environmental issue, and I think the wide majority recognise that you're going to have an array of solutions, there's not a silver bullet," he told Motorsport.com.

"Electric has become a little bit of a silver bullet. There are environmental issues around electric, there are infrastructure issues, there are cost of electric vehicle issues. I think it will be part of the answer, but I think the answer is going to be a number of things.

"I think in many ways, a combustion engine with synthetic fuels and other types of technology and energy recapture, they will be the most important element to the solution.

"I think there'll be a reality, when electric becomes less of a political dream and more of a market reality. I think other solutions will come to the forefront and be recognised as being a very important part, if not a central part of how you achieve the goals everybody wants for the environment."

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Series Formula 1
Author Jonathan Noble