Formula E’s fuel for the future: environmentally friendly product helps to clean up everybody’s act
Formula E circuit is powered by pollution-free glycerine – odourless, non-toxic, water soluble and an abundant by-product of bio-fuel industry
The FIA Formula E Championship was formed with the environment in mind and it continues to explore developments in technology that are designed to make the world a cleaner place.
That’s why if you should find yourself wandering past the generators that are powering the whole show here at the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix, you’ll notice immediately that something is missing – the smell of diesel fuel.
Thanks to advances made by Aquafuel Research Ltd, the Formula E circuit is powered by glycerine, a substance that is gradually helping change the way we live – and affect the planet that supports us.
“Formula E were looking for another option other than mains power or diesel,” explains Andy Welch, Aquafuel Research Ltd’s Formula E team manager says. “That matches the whole ethos of the series. With glycerine you can get the emissions extremely low. It’s way below all the emission controls in Europe.
“The fuel itself is renewable. Most of it at moment comes as a by-product from the bio-fuel industry. It’s water soluble. It’s non-toxic. It has no odour. I know that it doesn’t make much sense to most people, that you can use it as a fuel. But here we have it.”
Aquafuel adapts standard production diesel engines to use a substance that is a by-product of the biodiesel production process – and, Welch says, is so clean you could drink it.
These generators can be either fixed to one spot, and used to provide electricity and heating for buildings, as a mobile generator for powering events such as Formula E or as a charging station for electric vehicles.
Welch came to Aquafuel from a motoring background – mainly the junior Formula series. “So the mentality of the set-up I was very familiar with,” he says.
Formula E donated the generator used at this year’s Paris e. Prix to the host city – and it is currently locked into the French grid and helping deal with energy production surpluses.
“Quite often we will get an industrial plant that will bring us a by-product and ask if we can burn that for fuel,” says Welch. “Now we are seeing these generators used in schools and buildings. There thousands of diesel generators in permanent installations in every city so there’s a big push to clean the whole things up, emissions wise.
“People are very aware that they have to clean their acts up – and that’s what we are helping them do.”