Mike Evans, Shell Ferrari Formula One project leader: "Road users to benefit from F1 rule changes"
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Mike Evans is Shell Ferrari's Formula One project leader. As a champion racing driver himself, he has a unique perspective on innovation in petrol, both for Formula One racing and for normal road use.
How relevant is the technology of the fuel-thirsty Formula One Fuel cars of today for the average car buyer?
"Improving the efficiency of cars is one of the major challenges for Formula One. New regulations in 2014 will further improve fuel consumption and improvements of around 35 per cent will be achieved. This year's engines are 2.4 litre V8's, while next year they will be downsized to 1.6 litre turbocharged V6's. The whole ethos is to make the engines more like the road cars that you and I buy. Engines are going to be slightly lower in power. Also, next year will bring an Energy Recovery System (ERS) that recovers power from both braking and the turbocharger. ERS will give the drivers a thirty second power boost, bringing the total power level to around that of the current engine. Developing this technique will further improve efficiency and definitely benefit the road user. Today's supercars already incorporate this technique. The newest Ferrari hypercar, the LaFerrari, has a similar system."
“"The fuel supplier that leads the race in making bioethanol as efficient and cheap as possible, is going to be in a very good position."”
At Shell, you are responsible for improving Ferrari's Formula One racing fuel. How much cleaner has petrol become over the years?
"Gradual changes over the years have combined to make a huge difference. In the eighties, fuel became unleaded for road cars. That development was introduced first in Formula One. Later, sulphur levels, aromatic and vapour contents came down. The improvements in fuel efficiency have been enormous. Compared to twenty-five years ago, I think we have made fuel tens of per cents more efficient.
Next year, Formula One cars will be as energy efficient per unit of power as an ordinary diesel car. Considering their extreme performance, that' s staggering. The major fuel suppliers like BP, Mobil, Esso and Shell have worked with the FIA, the sport's governing body, to make sure that the fuel specifications are the same as in the fuel you and I buy in a petrol station. We have actually run a Ferrari Formula One car with our V-Power consumer petrol. It works just fine and only makes the car about a second a lap slower. This close connection between normal and racing fuels enables us to transfer Formula One technology to the road. There is nothing like being in Formula One if you want to innovate. The pace at which technologies develop is amazing. Formula One does for cars what the space race did for computing."
How does Shell's Formula One petrol compare to that of your competitors?
"I don't know! All the major fuel suppliers in Formula One fiercely protect their intellectual property. But I would like to think we are in a fairly good position."
“"Future fuels will need to be produced from the waste material, not from the edible part of the crop"”
What can we expect of the fuel of the future?
"It will be cleaner, more efficient and have more renewable bio-components. This of course is a hot topic. In 2010, the Shell fuel supplied to the Ferrari Formula One team began using a blend of bio-gasoline and next-generation ethanol soured from straw. We were very aware of the food versus fuel debate, and knew we had to make our fuel sustainable. Future fuels will need to be produced from the waste material, not from the edible part of the crop. Bioethanol will become more important in the future. It is the easiest biofuel to manufacture and can be currently made from sources like grains, sugar cane or sugar beet, whilst the amount produced from waste material is increasing annually. I think that the fuel supplier that leads the race in making that process as efficient and cheap as possible, is going to be in a very good position.
We also work with Ferrari on the GT side, the sports cars for the open road, such as the 458 and California models. Anybody buying a Ferrari now wants it to be able to run on the fuel that will be available in thirty or forty years time. A lot of the work we do consists of making sure that those cars will be able to run on the fuel of the future. We are guessing where the market will be and adjust the engines accordingly."
What do you see as the primary energy source for mobility in the future?
"If you look at energy efficiency, diesel, petrol and ethanol are at the top. Alternative modes of powering a vehicle, like hydrogen or batteries, have a lot of plusses but the negatives are substantial. The energy they use has to be produced somewhere. If you can do that with renewable sources, that's fine, but we are talking about huge quantities of energy. In the short run, I don't see petrol and diesel being beaten."