Auto Racing Shifts to Green

Eco Living
Sep 16th, 2013 | By Nicole Rogers

As the world of professional sports strives to become more sustainable, auto racing has become a somewhat surprising leader in the field. NASCAR and Formula E, the new electric car racing series, can be credited with making some of the first and biggest steps forward for sustainability in the sport.

In fact, NASCAR has quickly become a leader nationwide in recycling and environmental sustainability, partnering with major corporations to make every aspect of their business more sustainable. A quick review of NASCAR Green’s website provides a glimpse into the broad scope of the organization’s efforts and commitment.

NASCAR held the NASCAR Green Summit in Chicago this month with Former Vice President of the United States and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project Al Gore and retired U.S. Army General Wesley K. Clark as featured keynote speakers. NASCAR Green announced plans for strategic collaborations with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) at the summit, in addition to their established partnerships with corporate heavyweights like Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, Eaton, General Motors, Liberty Tire, Safety-Kleen, Sprint, Sunoco, Toyota, and UPS. According to the DOE, one of the goals of their partnership with NASCAR is to identify “transformative energy technologies that will benefit NASCAR and its fans.” These technologies include electric vehicle charging stations, solid-oxide fuel cells, advanced biofuels, and emerging natural gas technologies for NASCAR teams’ long-haul trucks. So you can expect to see more alternative fuels and electric vehicle technology in and around NASCAR events and corporate headquarters.

Sustainable America Board Member and NRDC Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz, Ph.D., worked to spearhead the two organizations’ partnership, which will promote energy efficiency at NASCAR-sanctioned racing facilities and NASCAR corporate facilities, as well as educate fans about renewable energy and promote healthy food options in collaboration with concessionaires at racing facilities. Hershkowitz himself calls the partnership between auto racing and an environmental group “unorthodox,” but explains on his blog that in order to make real changes, it’s time to bring the sustainability message to the mainstream with the help of corporate America. “The genius of the NASCAR-NRDC collaboration is its recognition that to solve our ecological problems we must align our call to action with mainstream social values, and with a focus on protecting our heritage, whether that heritage is a NASCAR race, an outdoor little league game, college football or youngsters playing hockey on a frozen lake,” he wrote.

In just four years, NASCAR has, with the help of its corporate partners, created the largest recycling and environmental sustainability programs of all U.S. sports. NASCAR also has the world’s largest solar-powered sports facility, a tree-planting program capturing 100% of the emissions produced by on-track racing, and the largest recycling program in sports. In addition, NASCAR and partners provide oil recycling and re-refining services to more than 200 NASCAR-sanctioned races a year, they have expanded tire recycling, reduced the number of used cellular phones that end up in landfills and installed solar farms and switch grass fields (an advanced biofuel source) at some of their tracks.

But NASCAR isn’t alone in its enthusiasm for new and sustainable racing technology. Formula E, an FIA championship featuring Formula cars powered exclusively by electric energy, is a new and exciting stage to show off electric vehicle technology around the world. In this, the all-electric racing series’ first year, there will be 10 teams and 20 drivers racing on roads — not racetracks — in Los Angeles, Miami, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, London, Rome, Buenos Aires, Beijing, Bangkok, and Putrjaya, Malaysia. Just as NASCAR has teamed-up with UPS, Formula E has partnered with logistics and transport company DHL, as well as Qualcomm and Tag Heuer.

The primary goal of Formula E seems to be exposure. With electric cars dominating auto shows, Formula E aims to be part of the excitement surrounding electric cars, hopefully attracting new fans to the sport while promoting clean energy. Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E Holdings, told BBC News that aside from the marketing aspect of the series, the ultimate goal is to hold a great race. The series has lots of entertainment planned for the opening year, including concerts, video games, and a unique-to-electric feature called “Push-to-Pass,” that gives drivers a temporary power boost as they race around narrow street circuits in major cities. Social media channels will allow spectators to vote for their favorite driver to receive an extra “Push-to-Pass” — meaning spectators could directly impact the outcome of the race.

Sustainable America loves fast cars, especially those that run on advanced biofuels, natural gas and electricity. As big fans of NASCAR and Formula One racing, we can’t wait to see what happens next in the fast-paced world of green auto racing.

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