The Volkswagen Group’s CEO hinted that his brands might be interested in joining the top tier of open-wheel racing once regulations change to make it become carbon neutral.
The sport’s regulations are set to include so-called “biofuels” as of 2023 in an attempt to keep the sport green and relevant. That clearly appeals to VW’s Herbert Diess.
“F1 becoming CO2 neutral using synthetic fuels is a much more exciting and fun tech-competition than Formula E,” said Diess on LinkedIn.
The challenge would be of particular interest to brands like Audi and Porsche who have been developing synthetic fuels recently. With both brands now competing against each other in Formula E, and the field becoming packed with rivals, it may be that the Group is unhappy with the challenge it provides.
Formula E is like “driving a few laps in city centers in gaming mode,” said Diess adding that the sport only makes sense if “we get carbon-free electricity soon.”
The question of how electricity is generated is an important one for EVs. With batteries that are energy-intensive to produce, producing EVs actually generates more carbon than producing internal combustion cars right now. It’s only once they start driving—and stop using gas—that they become more efficient.
Polestar this week released a chart showing that its Polestar 2, a small electric sedan, needs to drive nearly 60,000 miles before its carbon footprint becomes smaller than that of an XC40—assuming it uses the current European average electric power mix. If it were run entirely on wind energy, however, that number shrinks down to 30,000 miles.
So a carbon-neutral fuel is tempting technology and would allow the VW Group to flex its muscle a bit in what is still considered one of the world’s premier racing series.
With brands like BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, and more all jumping onto the Formula E bandwagon, and the cars becoming better every year, the question of how long F1 continues to be considered the better series remains to be seen.
For now, anyway, Formula 1 would welcome Volkswagen into the fold.
“I heard about [his comments], but not from Mr. Diess personally,” Jean Todt, the FIA’s president, told German media. “That’s why I want to be careful with my judgment. I don’t know whether he really said it that way. If so, I can only call out to him ‘Welcome to Formula 1’.”