While four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel hung up his professional racing helmet last December, it hasn't kept him out of the driver's seat. He'll pilot a selection of his personal F1 cars at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, demonstrating the practicality of fossil-free synthetic fuel that'll be used in the vehicles.
Vettel will race Nigel Mansell's 1992 title-winning Williams Renault and Ayrton Senna's 1993 Monaco Grand Prix-winning McLaren Ford using P1 Fuels sustainable fuel. The cars required no modifications to their V10 and V8 engines to operate with the direct replacement fuel. He will drive the pair up the festival's iconic hill course over the weekend.
The demonstration takes place as more automakers and companies explore the potential of synthetic fuel. Porsche started producing the stuff at a plant in Chile late last year, using the first drops of the nearly carbon-neutral fuel in a 911. The automaker's plant will increase production through 2027, but it won't be near enough to replace our daily fossil fuel dose.
In April, Stellantis announced that it was testing synthetic fuels in several of its engines, evaluating 28 gasoline and diesel engine families built from 2014 to 2029. The automaker said it was testing emissions, power, reliability, and other engine parameters.
Synthetic fuels also got an assist from the European Union earlier this year when the bloc voted to allow the sale of new cars that run on synthetic fuels. Automakers have some requirements to meet to implement the technology and prevent vehicles from using regular gasoline or diesel fuel, but that concern might be a ways off.
Synthetic e-fuels still require a lot of energy to create, limiting their effectiveness in reducing CO2 emissions. It's one hurdle new Toyota CEO Koji Sato says the technology must overcome before it's ready for mainstream usage.
It one reason why Porsche's production facility is located in southern Chile, where the breeze blows around 270 days per year. This allows the plant’s wind turbines to operate at full capacity, which powers the energy-intensive production process. In his criticism, Volkswagen brand boss Thomas Schäfer was harsher, calling the e-fuel technology "unnecessary noise."
Vettel began his F1 career in 2007, winning his first Grand Prix for Toro Rosso at Monza in 2008. He’d win his first World Championship for Red Bull in 2010 before collecting three more titles. He racked up 53 Grand Prix wins over his 16-year career before retiring last December.