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IndyCar is moving to 100% renewable ethanol in 2023

This year's Indianapolis 500 will be the last to run on E85 gasoline. From next year, the series is switching to renewable ethanol.
Enlarge / This year’s Indianapolis 500 will be the last to run on E85 gasoline. From next year, the series is switching to renewable ethanol.

Meyer Shank Racing

The IndyCar racing series is switching to an entirely renewable fuel next year. On Friday, ahead of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 race, IndyCar announced that starting next year, the race cars will be powered by a new, second-generation renewable ethanol race fuel developed by Shell.

“The fuel and lubricant and energy solutions developed through our strategic relationship with IndyCar and Penske Corporation can ultimately help accelerate reduced carbon emissions from transport in many sectors of the economy,” said Carlos Maurer, executive vice president of Sectors and Decarbonization at Shell. “Shell’s motorsports technical alliances around the world provide a testing ground for fuel and lubricant technologies and products in demanding road conditions.”

The manufacturing process for IndyCar’s ethanol will be slightly less exotic than that seen in the low-carbon fuel that Formula 1 is considering for 2026. Rather than carbon capture and electrolysis, Shell will use sugarcane waste and other renewable feedstocks, which are hydrolyzed and fermented at a plant in Brazil operated by Raízen (Shell is a co-owner).

Shell says that the switch “enables at least” 60 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than fossil fuel gasoline, although IndyCar currently runs on an E85 blend of gasoline rather than 100 percent fossil fuel or the 100 percent methanol that powered the sport for so many years. (Of course, at an event like the Indy 500, much of the carbon dioxide comes from the 300,000 fans going to and from the track rather than 33 cars driving in circles for a few hours.)

Among other changes to help green the sport is the installation of a 150 kW DC fast charger at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And the roughly 5,000 tires that Firestone will transport to the track by Sunday will be hauled there from the tire maker’s central Indiana warehouse by one of Penske’s electric Freightliner eCascadia trucks.

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