It’s growing on us: algae to power Formula E

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Formula E organisers have signed a deal with British startup Aquafuel to provide the all-electric championship with clean energy derived from salt-water algae.

Aquafuel specialises in glycerine, a biofuel produced by algae that can be comfortably grown in coastal areas instead of competing with agricultural land. The biodegradable and nontoxic biofuel is usually an unused byproduct of biodiesel production – but with Aquafuel’s expertise, it burns cleanly in modified diesel engines and generators to provide energy.

The agreement will see Aquafuel providing the Formula E championship with generators and glycerine, with the full grid of Spark-Renault SRT_01 Es being powered by clean, algae-derived electricity as a result.

With the technology still only in its infancy, there is no existing infrastructure in any of the countries that Formula E will visit – so the generators will need to be transported from circuit to circuit alongside the race cars.

“We can’t implement it in the country so we have to ship and transport it”, Formula E’s sustainability manger Julia Pallé told news website BusinessGreen.

“But since we’re starting from scratch the first year we have to deal with what we have and in future seasons we hope to be able to produce on site.”

In an earlier interview with the website, Aquafuel chief executive Paul Day explained that the fuel was so versatile that it could power anything from generators, such as those used in Formula E, to entire ships – and that an algal culture the size of Switzerland or the Netherlands could produce enough fuel to satisfy global energy demands.

It’s a partnership that yet again highlights Formula E’s aspirations to be the most advanced, engaging and environmentally friendly racing series to date.

For more information about Aquafuel, visit www.aquafuelresearch.com/ to read about its fascinating work.

Image credit: FIA Formula E / Bobby McKay – Algae Art (Flickr), CC BY-ND 2.0 (modified)

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