WorldFirst Biodiesel Race Car: Racing Gets Crunchy

In sum, the WorldFirst F3 bears every hallmark of a vehicle well ahead of a rapidly changing game, one that appears in many ways to be leaving the sport's carbon excesses in the past while contributing to a greener fleet of mass production vehicles.

worldfirst biodiesel race car

photo courtesy of WorldFirst Racing

by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: Biodiesel racing car
  • Class: Formula 3
  • Manufacturer: The Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (WIMRC)
  • Propulsion system: BMW M47 TU2 turbo engine calibrated for biodiesel
  • Top Speed: 140 mph (225 km/h)
  • Front tires: Avon 180/550 R13
  • Rear tires: Avon 250/570 R13
  • Fuel(s): Biodiesel derived from waste chocolate and vegetable oil
  • Tailpipe emissions: No

The manufacturer says

"[The WorldFirst F3] is the first Formula 3 racing car designed and made from sustainable and renewable materials, putting the world first by effectively managing the planet’s resources."

Overview of the WorldFirst F3

In a unmatched feat of green technology, every component of the vehicle features a "green and sustainable" element

The brainchild of researchers from the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre at the esteemed University of Warwick in West Midlands, England, the WorldFirst F3 racecar is a dramatic proof-of-concept vehicle. What does it prove? According to its creators, the vehicle proves to the wider Formula racing and automotive industries that "it is possible to build a competitive racing car using environmentally sustainable components through the use of the latest research outputs."

The project manager is WIMRC researcher James Meredith, with supervision from principal investigators Dr Kerry Kirwan and Dr Steve Maggs. Said Meredith, "The WorldFirst project expels the myth that performance needs to be compromised when developing the sustainable motor vehicles of the future”

The vehicle, which is built around a 2005 Lola B05/30 chassis, debuted in early March 2009 at Pioneers 09, a showcase event put on by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council aimed to bring together like-minded university researchers and business and industry leaders.

What the WorldFirst F3 is made of

car made from vegetables

In a unmatched feat of green technology, every component of the vehicle features a "green and sustainable" element, proving that thinking 'automotive green' can apply to the entire vehicle. Here are some of the astonishing highlights regarding just what the WorldFirst F3 is composed of:

Steering wheel:
derived from carrots and other root vegetables
Seat:
Flax fiber shell, soy bean oil foam and recycled polyester fabric
Wing mirrors and Front Wing End Plate:
Flax fiber shell over a potato starch core
Engine cover and Damper hatch:
Recycled carbon fiber
Lubricants:
Made with a plant oil base
Radiators:
Coated with a catalyst that converts ozone to oxygen
Brakes:
non-carbon discs; the team is working on developing pads made from cashew nut shell

Clearly, building the WorldFirst racecar was no piece of cake.

The WorldFirst F3's potential applications to passenger transportation

According to project manager James Meredith, the F3 offers plenty in the way of applications to passenger transportation: "Much of the technology in this car has come from the passenger vehicle market. Seats made with soy foam are already in production by Lear. Environmentally friendly wiring looms are already being used by Yazaki and BASF PremAir has been used on Volvo radiators for a number of years.

"The motorsport industry has only been concerned with high performance materials in the past and the challenge is to implement the environmental research done by Universities, OEM’s and tier one suppliers into motorsport to highlight the technology and promote its spread into all road cars."

A FutureCars Q&A with WorldFirst

We recently put some questions to the team behind the WorldFirst F3 and they were kind enough to respond. Here's what they had to say. Thanks to project manager James Meredith for coordinating the responses.

FutureCars: What are the project's origins? Partners are mentioned, but how did they come together?

WorldFirst: The WorldFirst Project originates from an idea to demonstrate environmental research at Warwick in a way which engages the interest of the public. It started with EcoOne our first environmentally friendly racing. This was so successful we decided to do a bigger and better version. The partners on the project have all come from friends and industrial contacts of James Meredith, Kerry Kirwan and Steve Maggs.

FutureCars: Is there a green racing circuit or series in the works?

WorldFirst: There are a number of green race series in discussion at the moment.

FutureCars: Any celebrities involved?

WorldFirst: Lord Drayson has sat in the car and offered to drive it and the brochures were handed out at the Oscars launch party to raise interest amongst celebrities.

FutureCars: How the hell do you build a steering wheel out of carrots (by extension, details available  about the process of building the entire car)?

WorldFirst: The steering wheel is manufactured from Curran by Cellucomp. It contains cellulosic nano fibres from carrot pulp combined with other resins which together form a high strength polymer with properties similar to a carbon fibre reinforced polymer. A mould was created for our steering wheel and the polymer paste injected into it to form the part.

FutureCars: What kinds of time trials has the WorldFirst racecar undergone?

WorldFirst: The car has not undergone any time trials. We hope to have it running shortly after Easter.

FutureCars: The vehicle premiered at  Pioneers 09.  Where will it make its next public appearance?

WorldFirst: The next scheduled event is the Zolder for the clean week 2020

Conclusions on the WorldFirst F3

The 17-race Formula One racing season began at the end of March with Melbourne's Australian Grand Prix. All eyes were on young phenom Lewis Hamilton, whose stellar 2008—and racial background—has some outlets drawing comparisons to Tiger Woods, but Hamilton didn't factor in the results, thanks to a disqualification.

The season also brings major changes to the circuit by the governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, or F.I.A., ones that should help bring wider recognition to the WorldFirst race car and the values it promotes. The FIA's Make Cars Green campaign features a number of green initiatives for both Formula One and for the general motorist. You can read more about the FIA's green initiatives in the their brochure (a PDF), Formula for the Environment.

Another recent development bodes well for the WorldFirst. In addition to the ongoing Michelin Green X Challenge, the International Motor Sports Association's American Le Mans Series announced that G-Oil, made by Green Earth Technologies in part from animal fats, would serve as their official motor oil. This doesn't mean teams are required to use the oil; however, that could change as soon as next season.

In sum, the WorldFirst F3 bears every hallmark of a vehicle well ahead of a rapidly changing game, one that appears in many ways to be leaving the sport's carbon excesses in the past while contributing to a greener fleet of mass production vehicles.

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