Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green racing

I noticed a lot of talk recently demanding that racing go GREEN in the environmentally friendly sort of way. The suggestion is that auto racing is so destructive to the environment that it should be canceled or at the very least race cars should run on batteries or even solar power.

One could hardly argue against the idea that reducing exhaust emissions would be a good thing - however restrictions to auto racing should be weighed against it's relative impact on the environment and of the current social mores regarding entertainment. Should going to the theater to see a movie be banned because people drive to the theater to see the movie - which is much worse to the environment than watching television or walking to a store to rent a DVD? Should airplane flights be canceled because of the enormous carbon footprint required to put these giants into the air so that a small percentage of the population can have fun in the sun. Die hard environmentalists would certainly say yes but should anything entertaining be canceled because it does not contribute to the well being of the planet (i.e. bread, not circuses).

Auto racing is definitely an exciting undertaking, full of adventure and sometimes disaster. Going to a racetrack I think that I notice first the sound of the engines as the deep rumbles of the cars turn into a scream as they race around the track. Second, I smell the pungent aroma of exhaust and rubber. Finally, I appreciate the crowds, the officials and the colours of the vehicles. Watching racing on television reduces the impact of the noise and eliminates the odours associated with event so the question is - could the Grand Prix operate at current speeds and distances with battery power only and would the public be concerned over the lack of noise (or could they put baseball cards in the spokes of the wheels)?

I think to study this issue we need to look at many factors including the following -and I will only look at the Grand Prix race series in Canada.

1. Amount of races, practices and cars involved in a typical year.
2. The type of fuel used in the race.
3. The amount of pollution and what type of pollution is produced by a car (and ratio of pollution between a race car and a typical car).
4. Speed and distances in the races.
5. Current battery technology (what speed and distance could be provided).
6. What are the current racing teams doing to go GREEN.

Join me in future posts as I try to answer these questions. If you have any comments please send me an email at jmhcet@gmail.com.

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