Powered by Chocolate and Steered by Carrots,
This Racing Car Is a Delicious Eco Vehicle.
The Formula 3 racing car he drives came into existence because British and Irish researchers responded to the challenge of building a high-performance car powered by biofuel and made with environmentally sustainable and renewable materials. They created prototype vehicles that environmentalists and vegetarians would be proud to drive.
Researchers at the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Center of the University of Warwick in the UK succeeded in building a Formula 3 Kerry Kirwan-designed racing car made with environmentally sustainable parts and operated using biodiesel fuel. This WorldFirst Project group dubbed the car the Environ-MENTAL.
A closer examination of the vehicle reveals a number of parts constructed from unlikely materials from the plant kingdom. Difficult to imagine is a steering wheel that began as carrots and other root vegetables. The carrot fiber originated as residue from a carrot soup factory. One would expect the steering wheel to be orange but instead it turned out purple. Dr. Kirwan surmised someone might have thrown some beets into the mix.
The seat lists flax fiber and soybean oil in its ingredients. The body of the vehicle is derived from potatoes mixed with resins. Parts of the wing and mirrors are fabricated from potato starch and flax fiber.
This Formula 3 race car also boasts many more non-standard features:
Fuel and lubricants for the vehicle are not petroleum-based, but are derived from plants especially waste chocolate and vegetable oil. The Warwick team obtained the chocolate waste from the Cadbury plant in Birmingham and combined it with alcohol distilled from leftover wine. Responding to teasing about the chocolate waste, project manager James Meredith indicated that none of the group sampled the chocolate waste. "It's waste, so I assume it's no good to eat," he said.
When the car made its debut on Earth Day 2009, the New York Times slyly reported. "No gingerbread or jelly beans were harmed in the making of the car."
Car buffs will want to know that Lola Cars in Cambridgeshire, UK aided the researchers by providing a 2005 chassis and some expertise on how to use plants to create auto parts. The Warwick team modified a 210-horsepower BMW 2-liter, 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine that powers the car that could reach speeds up to 135 miles per hour and is reported to hit 125 miles per hour around the curves.
Describing his green racing car, Dr. Kirwan said, "It accelerates faster than a conventional F3 car--it does 0-60 in two-and-a-half seconds. The torque is greater because it is a diesel engine. But the compromise is that it goes to lower revs."
At first the Eviron-MENTAL was unable to participate in Formula 3 competition because it violated the rules. The rules stated that participating vehicles must have 2-liter gasoline engines and no turbocharging. The Warwick group appealed for a waiver so the car can enter competitions. Because of safety concerns about whether certain eco features will stand up to high speed racing, the car will be equipped with rubber tires instead of the potato starch alternative. It will also utilize standard brake pads in place of ones constructed from cashew nut shells.
"It's been very exciting working on the project and important for our team to develop a working example of a truly 'Green' motor racing car," said Project Manager James Meredith. "The WorldFirst project expels the myth that performance needs to be compromised when developing the sustainable motor vehicles of the future."
While the Warwick researchers were assembling their Formula 3 racecar, their colleagues at the University of Ulster were constructing a similar car from cashew shells, hemp, soybean oil, potato starch, and recycled bottles that will run on biodiesel. To improve airflow around its exterior, the race car sports a uniquely designed barge board reinforced by high-strength flax fibers woven into a multiple-layer fabric.
Vegetarians in Paradise applauds the researchers in the UK and Ireland for their efforts to prove that eco-friendly racing vehicles can be created and powered in a sustainable way. We would be delighted to see a vegetarian environmentalist NASCAR driver like Leilani Munter behind the wheel of a racing car modeled after the British and Irish creations. Our joy would be complete if this research led to similar efforts in the production of automobiles for the general public.
We could imagine that following behind one of these cars we wouldn't be choking from gasoline or diesel exhaust fumes, but, instead, might find ourselves getting deliriously high on chocolate.