MotoGP is to follow in the footsteps of Formula 1 and switch to sustainable fuels. From 2024, 40% of fuel used in the MotoGP class must be obtained from sustainable sources - either synthetically produced using sustainable energy or from non-food biomass - and from 2027, all fuel used in all three grand prix classes, Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP, will be of non-fossil origin.
The idea behind the switch is in part leveraging the function of racing as a research and development platform, and in part bowing to the inevitable. As the world faces a global climate crisis, a switch away from extracting carbon stored underground and pumping it into the atmosphere is needed to manage CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
The role of racing is in making the combustion of non-fossil fuels more efficient. Engineers understand the combustion characteristics of fossil fuels very well, but synthetic, e-fuels, and biofuels burn and behave differently. Motorsports are about converting the largest amount of energy stored in a fuel source into the lowest possible lap time, and combustion efficiency - converting fuel into horsepower - is a very important part of that.
The good news for race fans who love the noise which emerges as a byproduct of combusion is that this switch will mean that grand prix racing will remain the home of loud engines and paddock workers with permanent hearing damage. Although MotoE will remain, and will expand in the future, motorbikes producing exhaust noise will continue to rule the paddock for the foreseeable future.
In this respect, 2027 is an important date. The current contract period with the MotoGP manufacturers runs from 2022 to 2026. The agreement with the factories is that technical regulations will remain stable for that period. A new five-year contract period starts in 2027, which is when major changes to the MotoGP formula such as this can be introduced. That means that MotoGP will be racing combustion engines between 2027 and 2031.
The source of the fuels is still to be decided, beyond being non-fossil free. But the FIM and Dorna have laid on a caveat, and stated an objective. Firstly, biofuels are not to be produced from food crops, as is the case with some ethanol, which is produced from sweetcorn or maize in many countries. Instead, it is to be produced from with waste products of forestry and farming, or from crops grown on land that is otherwise not suitable for food production.
The second is that the stated objective is to use zero carbon fuels. That means fuels sourced using production methods that don't emit carbon into the atmosphere, which also precludes some forms of farming or natural resource usage. Synthetic fuels must not be produced using energy sources that emit carbon.
The FIM and Dorna announcement stays way from involving the sport in the production of fuels, leaving that up to the fuel producers themselves. Only zero carbon fuels will be permitted to be used in racing, and how fuel suppliers produce that fuel is up to them.
The announcement is a statement of intent, and so does not include any technical details. There is no news of whether the current fuel regulations, which strictly control the composition of fuels used, will be modified, and if so, how. There are also no details on how or whether emissions standards, such as particle emissions, will be modified in the future.
The FIM press release appears below:
MotoGP™: racing towards the fuel of the future
2024 will see MotoGP™ move to sustainable fuels, launching a new global era of zero carbon fuels
Wednesday, 24 November 2021
The FIM Grand Prix World Championship, MotoGP™, is a global platform with the power to lead evolution in both the motorcycle and mobility industries. With a unique position as one of the world's most popular and technologically advanced sports, MotoGP™ is a racing ‘laboratory’ powered by innovation and development.
Global motorcycle sales amount to 60 million units per annum and two-wheeled transportation is a necessity for a huge proportion of the population, with over two billion motorcycles on the world’s roads. In many nations two-wheeled vehicles drive society. As the most sustainable motorised vehicles, two-wheeled transportation has a vital role in the quest for cleaner, safer, and more eco-friendly mobility, with the power to make an incredible contribution to the world’s need to cut carbon emissions, increase sustainability and fight climate change.
Working with MotoGP™ manufacturers, the sport has set new goals for increased sustainability:
By 2024, fuel in all MotoGP™ classes will be of minimum 40% non-fossil origin
By 2027, fuel in all MotoGP™ classes will be of 100% non-fossil origin
MotoGP™ is the platform in which these fuels will continue to be developed and tested, with every premier class manufacturer working with their supplier to develop their own fuel. The development of multiple fuels will ensure that the technology and knowledge will reach consumer motorcycles and fuel pumps on the street. This will create an unrivalled selection of viable, sustainable drop-in fuels developed by some of the most important players in global energy and tested by the highest level of prototype two-wheeled machinery in the world. With no single proprietor, the initiative guarantees unprecedented global impact.
These fuels of the future will be able to be used in a standard internal combustion engine and will either be laboratory-created, using components sourced from a carbon capture scheme, or derived from municipal waste or non-food biomass, thereby achieving significant savings in greenhouse gas emissions relative to fossil-derived petrol. In addition, fuel suppliers will progressively introduce the use of renewable energy in the production of their fuel.
The Moto2™ and Moto3™ classes will continue to be supplied by a single fuel provider and will also be introducing a part-sustainable fuel in 2024. Both classes will change to 100% sustainable fuel in 2027, alongside the MotoGP™ class.
The FIM, IRTA, MSMA, Dorna and all stakeholders are committed to creating a more sustainable sport and future, from engineering greater sustainability on track to assessing and reducing the carbon footprint of every single event and aspect of the sport with innovative solutions.
MotoGP™ is racing together to power worldwide innovation, creating and reflecting positive change.
Jorge Viegas, FIM President: "I’m really proud of this announcement, after many months and even years of negotiations with petrol companies and manufacturers, we’ve reached an agreement. This will allow MotoGP to be the leader in this real revolution for sustainability.
"We want to really show the way to all the motorcycle manufacturers that it’s possible to have the fun we all like but with sustainable fuels. We hope by 2027 to have completely carbon free fuels in our competitions, leading the way and showing that, even if the racing is a small part of emissions, we must be the leaders of this change; show the way. Thank you to all the stakeholders for the negotiations, finally now we can announce the good news."
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: "We are very proud to announce this incredible new venture and we would like to thank the FIM, MSMA, IRTA, our manufacturers and fuel suppliers for their unequivocal support in this ground-breaking step towards a more sustainable world. Racing together, MotoGP will be a driving force for global change and increased sustainability.
"Motorcycles are a vital asset to society, making two-wheeled vehicles a crucial part of the solution. Sustainable fuels are key to creating an attainable and viable path to a more eco-friendly world, impacting billions of people, and with a number of different fuel manufacturers committed to this endeavour, global impact is guaranteed. Thanks to all parties involved in making this possible."