Gilles Simon on clean fuel for Formula 1

Late last year, four Formula 1 powertrain manufacturers got first samples of environmentally friendly new fuel. In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, FIA technical director Gilles Simon told what steps are being taken in Formula 1 to switch to 100% environmentally friendly fuel by 2025.

Question: Why did the FIA ​​develop test samples of environmentally friendly fuels?
Gilles SimonA: We developed a prototype because we wanted to study the technologies currently available. A theoretical understanding of the question is one thing, but when it comes to practice, and you place an order for the production of 1000 liters of fuel, you suddenly get the answer that it will be ready only in two years.

The prototype we have developed, of course, is not perfect, but it meets the physical requirements of a Formula 1 engine. The engine runs on it. The overriding challenge is to create affordable fuel as early as possible at a reasonable cost.

Question: There are several types of environmentally friendly fuels. Which option did you choose?
Gilles Simon: There are several types of such fuel. The first option is E-Fuel, a low-carbon synthetic fuel produced in laboratories from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, at the moment it is not available in sufficient quantities. In addition, this fuel is not yet suitable for use in motorsport due to its low octane rating. It is quite difficult to bring it to 95, not to mention the octane numbers we need 102 or 104.

There is also synthetic diesel fuel – the so-called HVO fuel, which is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil. This fuel will form the basis for our truck racing series. Partially such fuel is used now, but the goal is to switch to 100% HVO in the future.

Companies like Neste and Total already make HVO fuels, but they are concentrating entirely on diesel fuel. During the production process, gasoline can be obtained as a by-product, but it will take too much time, which we do not have.

As a result, we have developed our own product, which consists of three elements. The basis is biological waste. To these we add 20% ethanol, also derived from agricultural waste. To improve the quality of gasoline, we use toluene, which is produced from waste. This is a new and recently patented process that we have perfected to produce Formula 1 gasoline.

We were helped by a startup company that specializes in processes with complex molecules. Our fuel has an octane number close to that which is now used in Formula 1 – from 102 to 104.

Q: How much test fuel did each powertrain manufacturer receive?
Gilles Simon: 200 liters each.

Question: What is the manufacturer’s task now?
Gilles SimonA: Our agreement with manufacturers is as follows: we define the physical parameters of the fuel so that current engines can work on it. Manufacturers then test it on test benches. This way, we get a better understanding of the difference between our fuel and the gasoline that is currently being used.

We are talking about the burning rate, detonation resistance, efficiency, consumption. Of course, we do not expect our original fuel specification to deliver the same performance as fuel that has been developed over the years and improved every three months.

We will collect data from all four manufacturers, analyze and draw conclusions for the next step. Work is progressing according to schedule.

Question: What’s the next step?
Gilles Simon: The information received will help us determine the parameters of future fuels and register them in the regulations. We are not going to produce gasoline ourselves. We take a pragmatic approach to the solution in cooperation with manufacturers. Data exchange is delicate as they compete with each other. However, a technical community is being formed that will push this topic forward. Everything is based on scientific evidence, there is no policy on this issue.

Question: When do you expect the first results?
Gilles Simon: A month later. We need data from all four manufacturers, but there is no information from Honda yet as it takes longer to travel to Japan and back.

Question: What results are you expecting?
Gilles Simon: Any Formula 1 engine can run on this fuel without destruction. This is a real achievement. That said, I expect some power loss as the engines are not adapted for this fuel. For seven years, the motors have been adapted for normal fuel, so now it is difficult to predict how much power will decrease. In any case, we still have time until 2025 to agree on the fuel and engine regulations.

Question: Is it so bad if the power plants of Formula 1, with a capacity of 1000 hp, lose 20 or 30 forces?
Gilles Simon: I don’t think it’s bad. Formula 1 cars will remain fast. A more important topic is reliability. All engines operate at knock limit. If it is increased further, the motor will be destroyed. We need to make sure everything is reliable. It will take several more years for this fuel to be used in Formula 1.

In addition, there is the problem of quantity. 1000 liters can be produced quickly, but a million is much more difficult.

Q: It was originally supposed that 100% synthetic fuel will appear in Formula 1 in 2023, but now this has been postponed until 2025, when new engines will appear in the championship. So two years were wasted?
Gilles Simon: I would not say that. We have two options: wait until 2025 or introduce new fuel in 2023 and the engine in 2025. The second method costs money, because manufacturers have to do the same job twice.

Adapting current engines to new fuels is much more difficult than building new engines from scratch by 2025. Modern propulsion systems have special fuel requirements. Modern fuels are extremely efficient and have a high energy density. With the new engines, we will move in a direction that is also based on fuel efficient technologies.

Question: Do you have any fear that politicians will refuse to use any kind of power plant other than those that run on electricity?
Gilles Simon: This is not a technical question. My personal opinion is that politics, unlike racing, does not keep up with modern trends. If, through our research, we can demonstrate progress in sustainable fuels, policymakers cannot ignore it.

We believe that together with the oil companies we must explain what we are doing, what steps we are taking and why. The sooner the better, but for now I wouldn’t worry too much. We have the opportunity to introduce environmental products earlier in other racing series that are less demanding.

Q: What should be the future Formula 1 engine to be compatible with this fuel?
Gilles Simon: The future power plant of Formula 1 should run on environmentally friendly fuel, consume less fuel, emit less pollutants, and electric motors should provide more power.

When working on a project, we pay special attention to efficiency under maximum loads. Road vehicles rarely run under maximum load, so they are designed to provide the best fuel economy at partial engine load. It is very difficult to achieve the same effect when the motor is running at maximum speed. This is what we strive for.

We are confident that we can increase the efficiency of the power plant by another 10%. This requires a fuel that is less dependent on the octane number. We are currently doing research to determine what the engine needs to be in order to achieve these goals. Soon we will communicate the information to all manufacturers, and then we will write the regulations.

Source: Формула 1 на by

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