5 Facts About E10: Formula 1's New Fuel
In 2019, Formula 1 launched a plan to become net zero by 2030. With a regulation change for the 2022 season, some changes have already started to be applied, such as implementing E10 fuel. This proposal is yet to be the final one, planned for 2026, but it is already a change for the series to become more sustainable.
Photo by Kévin et Laurianne Langlais.
1. What is this fuel?
The E10 comprises 90% fossil fuel, such as used in street cars, and 10% ethanol. The change is more sustainable, as ethanol pollutes 86% less than fuels generated from petroleum, such as gasoline. Until 2021, Formula 1 used E5, composed of 95% fossil fuel and 5% biofuel. Even if the difference is only 5% more ethanol, the performance change brought in is enormous.
2. Combustion modification
Ethanol has the lowest calorific value among all fuels currently used. This characteristic within motorsports must generate a few adaptations, as the autonomy of a vehicle with more ethanol fuel is smaller. In addition to the lower fuel performance, the increase of the ethanol percentage also modifies the combustion inside the cylinders, making a change in the combustion engine design necessary so that the temperature reaction difference does not affect the teams' performance.
3. Decrease in pollution
The E10 began to be deployed on the streets in 2021 due to its low CO2 emission rate. The fuel can achieve an average reduction of 70% of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, and - in practical terms - the estimate for it in people's daily lives is a reduction of carbon emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year. This rate is equivalent to an average of 350,000 fewer cars on the road.
In addition to reducing carbon dioxide production, mixing E10 causes a 25% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions. Nitrogen oxide (NO2) is a main polluting gas. It is highly toxic and one of the leading causes of acid rain.
4. Dispute between teams
As the fuel reacts differently and there is no specific rule for standardizing its development, the cooling effect of ethanol can be crucial in disputes between teams. It can be a championship decisive. The cooling effect serves for ethanol to match fossil fuel's temperature since it has a combustion power three times lower than gasoline.
5. Differences in partnerships
The teams must follow the European manufacturing rule for the fuel to be within the standard. Still, the differences are in the teams' partnerships with oil companies, such as Ferrari with Shell, Mercedes with Petronas, and Red Bull Racing with ExxonMobil. As a result, brands can make small changes to the percentage of components, making each team perform uniquely even within the regulations.