More rows over electric in F1 as Toyota go for record
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Aug 2011   |  10:52 am GMT  |  261 comments

The battles over the greening of F1 continue, with Bernie Ecclestone again casting himself in the role of the roadblock. This time he has said that the concept of F1 cars running on electric only in the pit lane – one of the new regulations for 2014 approved by the World Motor Sport Council – is not right for the sport and he will personally see to it that it doesn’t happen.

“Formula One is absolutely not the right place to have electric engines. It’s like having ballet dancers with sneakers. More comfortable, but it doesn’t work,” F1’s 80 year old CEO told the Express.

“There’s no way that it will be electric in the pit lane. People could be killed because they won’t hear the cars coming.”

At the same time we have Toyota announcing that they are going to have a crack at the lap record of the Nurburgring in an Electric Vehicle. Currently it stands at 9min 1.338secs and Toyota say that they have comfortably beaten that already in informal testing.

The 100% electric car is a two seater with a top speed of 260km/h and a 0-100km/h figure of 3.9 seconds. It comes out of the Toyota Motorsport Headquarters in Cologne, Germany, where the F1 team was based until its withdrawal from the sport at the end of 2009.

This goes back to an interview I did in April with FIA president Jean Todt, where he discussed launching an EV racing series with backing from the EU.

It’s an indication of the interest in promoting EVs among Europe’s politicians, that they want to spread the word about the technology and project a fun image for it. And so they’ve approached the FIA to get them to organise an EV racing series. The idea would be to leverage F1’s powerful media platform globally. Toyota say they want to prove that ‘green thinking motorsport’, as they put it, can get fans excited and generate emotions, as racing has done for a century. And as racing has been the test bed for motoring innovations throughout history, so it is today with this project.

My hunch is that this exercise has nothing to do with Toyota wanting to come back to F1, but instead is a prelude to them offering to supply that FIA series. This will be quite a breakthrough for the profile of EVs. There are other manufacturers interested in supplying this series, I’m learning and seeing Toyota make this move could encourage more. It feels to me like the start of something.

So how to square this circle? Will we end up with a compromise whereby F1 eschews electric gimmickry in return for the FIA’s EV series getting to leverage F1’s global platform and bask in the media glow?

At the heart of this is the battle between Eccestone and Todt which has escalated since the Frenchman replaced Max Mosley as FIA president. He was Ecclestone and Mosley’s favoured candidate, but he’s had his own agenda in office and it’s led to some serious friction.

Todt is determined to use his time at the FIA not only to modernise F1 and move it in a greener direction, but also to get more media value for FIA projects from F1’s global platform. His recent use of prominent banners around the F1 paddock advertising the FIA’s “Make Roads Safe” campaign is a case in point. All the F1 cars carry the message now too.

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Interesting to read all these arguments and remember those who said internal combustion was a toy that can’t outrun a horse but billionare horse owners didn’t supress the car. Everything takes time.


A bit late to add on this post(been on hols) but in terms of solar panel efficiency, there are a couple wafer fabs working on some super efficient PV’s. The technology is GeOSi (germanium on silicon) and should this be cracked we will all see FAR more efficient PV’s. Probably enough to start thinking about PV’s as a realistic way to charge these highly toxic batteries, for which the landscape is being raped in order to mine.


Here is an article relevant to the discussion here and the influence of EVs in F1. The title is, “Ferrari president Luca di Montezemelo doesn’t believe in electric cars, Santa Claus.”

Di Montezemelo says that he doesn’t see Ferrari producing an electric car because they don’t represent an important step forward for pollution, CO2 or the environment. Imagine that!

But I suppose that any number of armchair engineers posting here would know better than Ferrari’s president, just like the engadget journalist who wrote the article:

“Still, it’s not too hard to imagine a future where the majority of autos run on electrons — whether they’re pushed from batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.”

Apparently Luca is loco and we should trust the journalist (a software consultant) who wrote the article!


Heres a better idea. One that much more inclusive, fan friendly, environment friendly, and maybe fun:

F1 buys a hundred identical golf carts.

At each venue, instead of the fire-breathing monsters we now love, they use *them. All 100 at a time on track. F1 drivers in 26, *fans selected by random draw from those in attendance in the others!


“at the moment EV and KERS are in their infancy”

I don’t know how such rumors get started. The electric automobile was invented ca. 1830 so it’s clearly *not* in its infancy.

Since the invention of the EV, we’ve seen the advent of manned, powered aviation, television, transistors, atomic weapons, rockets & spaceflight, computers, cell phones, various forms of recordable media and tens of thousands of other useful inventions that have changed everything in human history. These technologies have all moved onto maturity because they work well and are useful. Nobody complains that they are still in their infancy. (No doubt many will continue to grow exponentially, it seems!)

And gasoline powered cars have flourished and dominated largely unchallenged because they work well and are useful too, while EVs have sprung up and died back out a few times because they don’t. Since 1950 F1 has largely ignored EVs (a well-known technology even back then) despite all their wonderful advantages precisely because of their even more awful disadvantages that linger on into the present.

EVs and KERS are not in their infancy. We’re seeing them in the *prime* of their development after 180 years of trying and failing to deliver. Because EVs still persist in underperforming as a system, we give the lame excuse that they are new, underdeveloped technology. POSH!

To the contrary, history tells us that the EV is an old, over-developed technology that’s failed time and time again to change the course of the automotive industry.

Let’s keep it out of F1!

BTW, the hydrogen fuel cell was invented in 1839, remarkably close in time to the invention of the electric automobile. It’s not doing so well either.


I love F1 but I’m not about to stop progress – when it actually is progress and at the moment EV and KERS are in their infancy and they are somewhat comparable to the old technology of a horse of which the auto-mobile took over.

The electric / fuel cell cars wont stay that way for long – expect the man with the red coat to be removed soon and expect Manufactures to push their power packages to be used in racing – then F1 will change.

Politics killed the GM EV1 which was a good developmental little car from 96-99 but the world has changed now. EV is acceptable, plus, we have now gone over the top of the oil mountain supply and consequently its use will decrease as its cost rises.

New innovative cars are THE ONLY FUTURE – Therefore to stick your head in sand for today saying I like my noisy V8 is and want F1 to never change is a stupid statement ….. things will change …. maybe not to your liking …. but then you just sound like an old man ruing a bygone age.

Hamilton, Alonso, Vetel will all shine in nuclear hover racers which is cool to me ( This actually is not a flippant statement ) – racing will always be racing whether its in a current F1 car or one from 1906 or the future its all good to me.


Entirely valid points on the development of the auto industry. On the question of subsidies I am happily put right. You lost a couple of points, however, when you got the the question of the remote control – one of my favourite personal appliances is a pocket warmer that runs on a tablespoon of lighter fluid for about 20 hours of tremendous personal heat, so the notion of a remote control that runs on milligrams grams of fossil fuel interests me. I am, however, quite prepared to admit up front that this probably says more about me than the topic under discussion. 🙂


250litres of fuel costs maybe a few hundred dollars, the 4 or 5 battery packs you speak of would be worth god only knows what. Why do exponents of electric powered vehicles ignore the harsh reality that the expenditure required to get this stuff on the road is astronomical. Ever since the Model T, petrol driven cars have been affordable transport for the masses, yet Electric Vehicles remain a heavily subsidised, impractical joke, outside of photo shoots with the Chardonnay set who don’t actually have to live with the real world limitations.

god help us, just to get a rechargeable battery for the TV remote that will actually do its job beyond a half a dozen charges costs a small fortune.


If ‘heavily subsidized’ is your argument against electric then I suggest you read up on your American automotive history. The only reason why the Model T was so successful, was owing to MASSIVE government subsidies for the entire oil/gas industry in the states.

Do you think gas stations popped up over night? The vast majority of cars at the turn of the (last) century were electric, where people could charge their cars AT HOME. Instead, intensive lobbing led to a gasoline infrastructure, which owing to the superior convenience of the technology (at the time, mind you) led to the shift.

Would you rather your TV remote be powered by a small turbo-diesel? Didn’t think so.


The point is obviously that despite the heavy subsidization of EV technology, it continues to fail both on the drawing board and in the market place. Not all subsidized technologies fail. EVs have because no amount of spending can make them affordable and practical.

And subsidies are not the *only* reason the Model T succeeded. If they were, then you’d be left to explain why EVs haven’t succeeded considering the massive subsidies spent on them. The Model T (unlike EVs) turned out to be both practical and affordable.


I did mention that the subsidized infrastructure made them the more convenient technology.

EVs will become more convenient (and affordable) as well, as quick charge batteries are produced and gas passes $3/liter.

An important fact that most ppl overlook is the INCREASING cost of gas. I won’t get into the peak oil debate, but am only in my 20s and pay twice as much for a tank as I did when I was 16.


I don’t agree with this ‘green’ image that they are trying to turn the greatest motorsport in the world into. This is motor racing! Todays fans want high speeds, power and loud sounding engines. Every Ferrari fan including myself want V12 power back in a Ferrari and that is one of the trademarks of Ferrari. The sport should have an open engine regulation as it is the pinnacle of motorsport. It doesn’t matter if one, two or three teams dominate. The sport and racing has always been tight. Manual gear sticks in the cars is the way to go, this will bring out the talent! Since we are having another turbo era on the horizon, the cars should be at 1000bhp with the 15,000rpm like it used to be.

If I wanted to see an electric powered Formula I’d take out my scalextric set!


I’m just going to put this out there:

I get the feeling that everyone who is against the idea of electric ANYTHING in F1 are the same sort of people who didn’t like being told that smoking is bad for you, or that they couldn’t put leaded gasoline in their cars. Times change, they PROGRESS.

NASCAR uses 60 year old engines, watch that if you like. F1 had never been about stagnation, let along regression. Why can’t we accept that times change (almost always for the better), and not get bogged down thinking that anything different is bad.

I for one welcome the changes. Elite car manufacturers are producing hybrid cars, mainstream manufacturers are now moving onto full electric (anyone who thinks a bad, unabashedly biased review on TopGear is the death knell of electric is delusional). Why not let F1 be the front runner, instead of clinging on to your ear plugs for the sake of perpetuating archaic technology?

Ecclestone is not right about everything. He hates electric, but he loves Sky. Where does that leave you?


Agreed. Weren’t the earliest auto races staged to promote and advance a new technology? I’m sure at first the horse & buggy was much more reliable than the early automobiles. Let the planet’s best engineering minds loose on this technology in the competitiveness of F.1 and watch the advances in electric motors!


In my mind there is nothing wrong with formula 1. Why does F1 have to persue a greener image? No other sport does. The ironic thing is, and I’m sure some of you would know the specifics of it, is that the current F1 engines are reasonably fuel efficient especially when you consider their rpm and power. I dont know if this is true but I heard somewhere that cosworth’s V8 can get around 50 m.p.g. The reason the teams only get 4/5 m.p.g is downforce. The FIA and FOTA constantly moan about costs, and fair enough spending a million pounds or more a day on an f1 team as ferrari & mclaren reportedly did in the early 2000s isnt sustainable. So why not get what we all want, drastically cut aerodynamics so we see cars sliding around the track and boost fuel economy (I imagine there is more to fuel economy than aero but its a sizeable chunk).

Another point I’d like to discuss is why in the last 5-10 years has the “buzz phrase” in F1 is for it to be relevant to road cars? Sure technology has in the past trickled down to the everyday driver, better gearboxes, brakes, tyres, seatbelts etc. but these were developed in a time when there was much greater technical freedom in the sport. I dont see myself attatching a front wing or blown diffuser to my citroen anytime soon. If Toyota or Nissan or anybody else wants to develop EV’s then why does it have to be through F1, a sport which is renowned for its loyal and obsessive fans who care and want to have a deeper knowledge of their sport than say an average sports fan. We are petrol heads by nature in my opinion, and an attempt to have “silent” cars in the pits and potentially at the grid start would be a very very sad day for people like me. I dont think F1 would attract new fans just because its more electric. It would be like watching a football match in an empty stadium.


This has definitely been a great topic of discussion. I think the first step should definitely be some sort of hybrid solution… whatever that may be.

I think that a switch to fully electric is not something all the manufacturers would embrace simply because they will not be able to instantly transfer that technology down to their production road cars.

As far as the “silent” electric F1 cars driving through the pit is concerned, that wouldn’t be a major issue because they can add noise to solve the problem.


Surely you all know that you aren’t listening to V8 racing cars at the moment? You are all savvy enough to know that you don’t have an F1 car in your living room. 600 million of us watch F1 on TV and what we hear is a digital conversion of that noise, fired 50,000 miles up to a satellite and down, then radiated out to us and converted by our TV sets into a sound. What’s to stop that sound being projected when an EV F1 car passes?

Does it matter that the motive power used by Lewis Hamilton to fight with Fernando Alonso or Seb Vettel is electric, or even ion drive, as long as we get our fix of engine sounds and the racing is close? Eventually, I suspect that the noise won’t matter as our perceptions change, the racing will be all we care about.

In actual fact, how long do you think it will be before the environmentalists are saying that using electricity generated by fossil fuels or green methods to power F1 cars is unsupportable?

Ten years ago, racing was much the same as we have now. I fear that it won’t be, ten years hence – so enjoy what we have now while you can.


The idea of electric racing is laughable.

Fundamentally, everything is based in oil. What are tyres made of? What are chassis made of? What produces the electricity that pit wall computers run on? What are those computers made of? EVERYTHING is oil based one way or another. Oil is used in the production of all of the above and every other little component you can think of down to Christian Horners shoes. Hydrogen + electric powered cars are somewhat ridiculous when you put them in context. Yes they may run without burning fuel but everything else about the cars are a product of massive amounts of carbon being burnt. The energy saved by running electric or hydrogen powered vehicles is miniscule compared to the energy used to create them. Unfortunately we have a one way system. The sell by date is nearly up on this sport as is. The noise, speed and torque, everything that makes it F1, is dying, please let’s not kill it off completely by chasing these insignificant(in terms of reward) endevours.


More electric-car technology in F1 is a good thing. The debate shouldn’t be about noise or safety in the pitlane. That’s misleading. It should be over what F1 is about — cutting edge technology or outdated, romantic technology. If it’s the former, well, everyone can see electric vehicles are part of the future. If it’s the latter, F1 is at danger of becoming irrelevant, like NASCAR.

Once you drive a hybrid and notice that its engine turns off at stoplights and other times when it isn’t needed, then fires up again when you need to go, you realize how intuitive and simple such a complex system actually is when in use. Every car in the near future will have this feature to save increasingly scarce.

I for one would follow F1 even closer if it pushed itself into real-world relevance with more electric power. I think an electric-only pitlane would be amazing, and would underline just how real the electric power is on the cars. I also think more electric power could allow for more variables built into the formula: Limit the amount of fuel over a race, limit the size of batteries, then let the engineers figure out the fastest compromise, or push them to improve efficiency.

There’s such energy and youthful enthusiasm in many of the electric vehicle start-ups out there right now, and this would also be a good thing to bring into F1. The corporate old world behemoths and their huge motorhomes turn a lot of us off. I’d rather see a brand like Tesla or Fisker backing a team and bringing the sort of shakeup they’ve already brought to the regular automotive world.


Electric in the pit lane is a secondary issue compare to the broadcasting rights issue of moving F1 to pay only TV for 50% of the live races. I won’t be giving a penny to Murdoch so quite frankly I could n’t care less at this moment.


The Dictator says no. This is the same dictator who said “we go to Bahrain. Its fine.”

As for Loud & Brash, that disappeared with the exotic fuels and the V10s.


Hydrogen = Dead end

Batteries = Dead end

Synthesizing hydrocarbons from atmospheric CO2 is the future!

Hydrogen has a stupidly low energy density, added to the fact that you need stupid amounts of energy to produce, chill and compress it.

Batteries need stupid amounts of time to recharge (admittedly new tech could change this) and are heavy even when empty.

Hydrocarbons (read: petrol & diesel) are proven tech, with huge energy density, (relatively) easy to handle, quick to recharge/refuel/replace, and if we can synthesize them from the atmospheric CO2 using carbon neutral electricity (i.e. solar) they have almost no overall environmental impact. Win, win, win!


For hydrocarbons, you need hydrogen and carbon. CO2 only has carbon and oxygen. You’re missing an ingredient.


Point taken.

Wrongly I wrote this without thinking that most people aren’t familiar with the processes in this area, and considered the hydrogen source as a given.

The hydrogen will be obtained from water via cracking, the same method used to obtain it for hydrogen cars but done properly, the hydrogen doesn’t need to be stored for any length of time, as it will be fed straight into the hydrocarbon synthesis.

The main point I was trying to make was that by recycling the CO2 waste that everybody associates with climate change, you take away a big objection to petrol powered F1 cars as “causing climate change”.


The very nature of F1 is to pursue the ultimate in motorsports technology, the optimization of what is possible given a set of limitations to observe (engine, weight, etc.). To make F1 “green” runs counter to the very concept of the formula. “Green” belongs somewhere else – in a separate series, perhaps run on F1 circuits, perhaps even underwritten financially by F1 teams and sponsors, but not in F1 itself.

To make F1 green is to “water down” the formula to the point where it loses its identity. And where will it end – cars running on peanut oil? Solar? Wind-powered F1 cars? The whole idea is ridiculous.


It seems contradictory to state that F1 is, on one hand, the pursuit of the ultimate in motor sport technology and then on the other to start objecting when its pursuit takes it down roads you personally object to. ‘Green’ doesn’t run counter to the concept of F1; it has just evolved to the point where to make advanced racing cars AND ones that also happen to be green to a certain extent are the current envelopes of technology that are being pushed. I think it is exciting. For me it has always been about the twin challenges of what the driver can do with a given car and what the designers and engineers can do to given the scope of the regulations. It’ll never be a sport that is preserved in aspic. While that might mean that there is better or worse racing at times, and certain fashions come and go – go like traction control, thank God – it does guarantee it never becomes staid. F1 simply has to be left to play out the way it plays out and we shall see. It’s a sport unlike most others in that the future will always bring change and I’d have thought most F1 fans grasped that intuitively and didn’t just see it is as plain old racing, which they can get anywhere.


I’m sorry, but it is your grasp of what is proposed that is ridiculous – and that of many other posters on here and other blogs.

What is being proposed is not making F1 ‘Green’ – it is changing the emphasis to a new form of propulsion.

Do you really think the batteries used at the moment are all nice and cosy and made from safe, easy to obtain compounds? And that the motor / generator sets they use are pulled from the nearest milk float?

F1 will still be at the cutting edge of whatever technology is used and will always use the most appropriate materials are available to get results, no matter what the other implications are.

However, the FIA have recognised there is a need to further reduce the amount of fuel used by all forms of transport. Using F1 to showcase them is the ideal way to negate the preconceptions you and a significant amount of people hold.

I don’t recall anything in the new rules that even hints that electric cars are on the horizon for F1 in the future. What they are doing is allowing teams to exploit ways to recover energy that would otherwise be wasted.

OK, so electric on the pits is a bit of a gimmick but it is also making a good point that electric is more efficient than petrol at lower speeds while being an effective supplement at higher speeds.


Classic Bernie. He’d obviously been saving this one up for the summer break.


Its just a gimmick. A useless, pointless bit of nonsense. An entire new layer of complications just for use in the pitlane? Too stupid.

I can’t *wait to hear the complaining when Alonso loses the wdc because his F151st blew a fuse in the lane and he had to retire.

Scuderia Missile

Frankly, whilst electric power is viable within the next 20yrs on a full commercial scale, Europe and its politicians have, within the next 3 months, a much more pressing agenda. Sticking their heads in the sand and talking about green energy is ridicilous when they should be getting on with sorting out the Euro. The economic repurcussions of failing to do that far outweigh and benefit of marketing e-vehicles.


Sure but there are many roles within the EU and not all of them are economic/financial


Maybe the fact that there are so many roles within the EU is part of the same problem.


One of the biggest arguments used against electric engines is the limited range and time it takes to charge the batteries. It’s as if gas powered cars don’t need to be refilled every few hundred miles such as they do, or that the average driver goes more than 40 miles per day on average, which they do not.

People seem to forget that it was not so long ago when filling stations were not nearly so ubiquitous. There were far fewer of them and they were a lot more spread out so you had to actually PLAN your trips ahead of time and be careful about where you drove and how far or you could get stuck somewhere A LONG WAY from a filling station. At least with an electric car in the worst case scenario if your batteries ran out of a charge is you would be forced to wait while your car charged itself from a poratble solar panel.

As for the time it takes to charge the batteries, that could be solved easily with a sharing system similar to what is in place for propane tanks used for BBQs: Pull up to a service station, pop your spent batteries out and exchange them for a set of fully charged batteries. Easy peasy.


Good points – you still do occasionally see petrol stations with ‘last fuel for x miles’ signs outside them.

At the moment with electric unless you are lucky you have to get where you are going then back home to recharge.

One option for the future of course may be a supplementary generator you can fit to your car for longer runs. It could operate at optimum efficiency keeping the battery topped up rather than existing petrol engines which rarely run at their optimum.

Not that we are discussing electric racing here, despite what many posters seem to think, but I can see a future where the circuits have charging ‘loops’ fitted at strategic points to give the cars a boost as they pass. Either that, or you have to pop in to the pits for a 20 second induction charge 2 or 3 times a race.

However, I doubt we will see that in F1, although we will see a move away from petrol.


All the other arguments against electric engines aside, one thing few people mention is that the electric engine arguably performs better than regular engines. Wider power band, smoother acceleration, no need for gears…is using the pinnacle of technology not what F1 is about?


Bernie needs to be careful that F1 doesn’t fall behind the times, he should be open to “exploring” new ideas rather than discounting them straight away, let the F1 engineers explore the different options to allow growth in the sport.

I for one can’t wait to see the DeltaWing project in LeMans 24 next year after it was ridiculed by many.


To be honest I think the whole global warming thing is mass hysteria, the world has always experienced fluctuations in climate – why are we no longer in an ice age? There were no cars to emit greenhouse gasses to melt the ice ten thousand years ago! I sincerely hope that motorsport and particularly F1 does not fall victim to the electric disease.


I think that running out of oil is a more pressing worry than global warming…


Oil is not going to run out as soon as one might think. There is an incredible amount of oil mixed with sand in Alberta, Canada. This oil is expensive to extract and not profitable right now, but when the price of oil reaches a certain point it will make economic sense to extract this oil. Increases in the price of oil are not ideal (although they may deter consumers toward alternative sources!), but it does mean that there is much more oil in the Earth than the easily-accessible but shortening supply from the middle east. So the good news is that we won’t instantly run dry one day,

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