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Two-stroke engines & eco-fuel: F1 aims to be greener than Formula E

by Dominic Tobin on 10th January 2020

Formula 1's plan for green and noisy engines: two-stroke hybrids, running on synthetic fuel

Shell Formula 1 fuel on a pallet in the pitlane

Photo: Motorsport Images

Formula 1 is looking to introduce two-stroke engines that run on eco-fuel by the middle of the decade, as it develops plans to become carbon neutral.

The proposal is said to make the sport greener than electric racing series, such as Formula E, while still using internal combustion engines — with improved sound.

Current F1 hybrid engines will be replaced by a new specification of power unit from 2025 or 2026. It will play a significant role in Formula 1’s project to become carbon neutral in 2030.


"I’m very keen on it being a two-stroke,” said Pat Symonds, chief technical officer of Formula 1, at the Motorsport Industry Association’s energy-efficient motorsport conference.

"Much more efficient, great sound from the exhaust and a lot of the problems with the old two strokes are just not relevant any more."

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The new engines are likely to remain hybrids but powered by synthetic fuel, made by combining hydrogen with carbon captured from the air, using surplus green energy.

As well as the cars, this e-fuel could power the planes that carry the cars and equipment to races, making a big dent in the sport’s carbon footprint.

Research presented at the conference showed that electric racing cars could be responsible for twice the level of carbon emissions as hybrid racing cars, because of the amount produced when building the batteries.

"We need to look at what our future power units will look like," said Symonds. "At F1 this is what we are engaged in at the moment."

Pat Symonds

Symonds has started work on new engine regulations Photo: Motorsport Images

He said that the sport’s pledge to continue with the current engines until 2025 gave it the time to "make sure that the next step is a really good one".

"It might be that the next power unit we produce is the last one we do with liquid hydrocarbons," he said. "I think there’s a very high chance that there might still be an internal combustion engine but maybe it’s running on hydrogen.

"I certainly think that the internal combustion engine has a long future and I think it has a future that’s longer than a lot of politicians realise because politicians are hanging everything on electric vehicles.

"There’s nothing wrong with electric vehicles but there are reasons why they are not the solution for everyone."

Symonds said that he is currently visiting universities carrying out engine research to inform the new regulations.

He told the conference that he was struck by the amount of research going into two-stroke engines, which are better-known for their smoky and noisy performance in lawmowers, rather than their potential at the pinnacle of motor sport.

"It’s reasonably obvious that if you are going to pump that piston up and down, you might as well get work out of it every time the piston comes down rather than every other time the piston comes down," he said.

"The opposed piston engine is very much coming back and already in road car form at around 50 per cent efficiency.

"Direct injection, pressure charging, and new ignition systems have all allowed new forms of two-stroke engines to be very efficient and very emission-friendly. I think there’s a good future for them."


Engine development could follow the same process as the new rules for 2021 Photo: Motorsport Images

Symonds is looking to set up a working group to develop the specification for the next F1 engine, mirroring the way that the 2021 chassis rules were drawn up.

Teams would be encouraged to work collaboratively, as the design would be more prescriptive in an effort to keep a lid on costs.

Symonds says that synthetic fuel would be tailored to the engine, using an optimum blend of hydrocarbons, to improve efficiency and performance, while reducing particulate emissions.

The fuel would allow the engine to run with a higher compression ratio, improving efficiency by up to 2.4 per cent. 

Before then, the sport is looking to introduce e-fuels that can be used in current engines as production capacity increases. 

"As soon as there is enough around we should be doing it and we’re not that far away from what we need," said Symonds.

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  • 2 months later...


F1's biofuel properties will open new power battle


ormula 1's switch to biofuels with its new generation of cars looks set to trigger a surprise development battleground thanks to a change it brings in engine cooling characteristics.

As part of F1's push for sustainability, new rules – which were originally coming in 2021 but have now been delayed – will require teams to run their engines with a 10% blend of advanced sustainable ethanol.

Work has already begun among F1's fuel suppliers to optimise the potential of the biofuel, and Ferrari's technical partner Shell has revealed a fascinating characteristic of the new product.

It believes that a cooling characteristic of ethanol could open up some interesting development directions for F1 that could prove decisive in the battle for glory.

Shell's F1 development manager Benoit Poulet told Motorsport.com: "The interesting aspect of the car performance is similar to when you put a [ethanol based] cooling gel on your fingers – you can feel the cooling effect that you get. It will be the same for the engine.

"It will be able to cool some parts of the power unit and that could be quite beneficial. We are working hard on it.

"The properties are certainly quite interesting for combustion, and I think we can do some interesting things. We have definitely found at the moment that this cooling effect is good for the engine."

Ethanol delivers the cooling benefit because it has nearly three times the heat of vaporisation as regular fuel – which means there is a cooling effect for the incoming charge during the combustion cycle. A cooler intake charge means that engine power will increase.

Engine manufacturers could chase this straight horsepower gain, or could opt to change the overall design and cooling characteristics to run the engine at a different temperature. This could then have a knock-on effect for the car's aerodynamics.

Benoit said that Shell has been working on the new biofuel ever since the regulations came out last year.

"It's a big challenge but we are really happy to switch to E10 fuel – and to be honest we would be happy to have even more than 10%," he said.

"We have people working on the project, and people who are familiar with E10. And it's a big change because ethanol comes with some different properties to the other hydrocarbons.

"Because of that, we really decided to start early. It's a bit like the chassis people; we started as soon as the regulation was published. On project management, I allocated one person full time on that question and now we have got a good understanding in terms of the benefit of E10."

The use of more biofuel in F1 was originally set for 2021, but a recent move to delay the new regulations because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means the requirement could be moved back until 2022.




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Volim ovo kako F1 "uterava" FE i to u stilu. Nisam siguran, nemam kristalnu kuglu ili Oko Agamota ali ne verujem da će F1 ikad postati 100% električna. Uvek će tu biti alternativna goriva i nepobediv koncept motora s unutrašnjim izgaranjem. E šta će motor izgarati u budućnosti, videćemo ali opet biće 100% zeleno za okolinu. I naravno uvek će biti prisutan ERS, FE zapravo pomaže timovima koji imaju i bazu u obe serije da naprave što bolji ERS. Toto je nedavno baš to potvrdio.


Ništa nemam protiv FE, dapače. Sviđa mi se ta gladijatorska borba serija kojima je cilj napraviti što moćniji/brži zeleni motor u cilju zaštite okoline.

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