Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NASCAR Goes Green with Ethanol, rather than Electricity

Racing hasn't traditionally been terribly interested in sustainability.  After all it's rather wasteful to drive around in circles to see who can drive the fastest.  But Motorsports, as readers of this blog are aware, are looking into ways to reduce carbon footprint and in general move towards some sort of sustainability.  But each form of motorsports has been doing this differently, and it seems to this observer that existing motorsports people grew up with getting ahead by tweaking ENGINES for maximum power and efficiency, which may give them blinders against adopting non-ENGINE technology.

An example is the Ethanol embrace by both NASCAR and the IndyCar series.  Both are claiming to be going green by adopting Ethanol. 
Green Innovation initiative has many impressive aspects including landfill diversion from events, recycling tires and used motor oil, and tree planting offset programs.

NASCAR and IndyCar both have interesting "green" initiatives such as recycling tires, landfill diversion, etc, and some race tracks have gone a bit further with ideas like solar panel arrays to produce electricity and using goats to trim the grass.  The most noticeable effort with both groups is their switch to Ethanol.

There's a lot of room for questioning just how green biofuels are.  Ethanol for example has a long history in racing (e.g. alcohol fuels) so in practice it's not much of a change for racers to switch between various liquid fuels, especially to adopt a sort of alcohol fuel they've been using anyway.

Having attended an IndyCar race I know that those race cars are just as loud and smelly as when they ran on gasoline.  It's one thing for an EV fanatic like me to look down my nose at their use of biofuels, and it's yet another thing to supply them with an electric alternative that will do their race format.

The gas-car races go for 500 miles, right?  Going high speed with an electric car is quite possible, but going 500 miles would mean stopping to recharge frequently.  What would be the model to enable a 500 mile race at the speeds they run at?  Fast recharge systems (e.g. CHADEMO) take 10 or 20 minutes to do the recharge.  Battery swapping systems are possible allowing a pack to be swapped within a minute or so, and this exact thing has been done in multiple electric vehicle races.  But it would mean having a car racing organization with the vision to reshape their sport to do this.

NASCAR Goes Green

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