American Le Mans Race Cars to Compete to be the Greenest
July 2, 2008
The tenth-anniversary running of the Petit Le Mans endurance race in Braselton, Georgia, will feature an added twist, as the racers will also compete to achieve the smallest environmental impact. The American Le Mans Series announced on June 24 that its signature event will feature the first ever "Green Challenge," a race within a race that will score each car based on its total energy use, the greenhouse gases emitted, and the petroleum fuels displaced during its running of the 1,000-mile, 10-hour race. The American Le Mans races employ three fuels: sulfur-free diesel fuel, E10 (a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline), and E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). The E85 used in the races is made from cellulosic ethanol, that is, ethanol derived from non-edible forms of biomass, which in this case is wood waste. Cars that run on the cellulosic E85 will have a distinct advantage, because of its lower life-cycle emissions of greenhouse gases and its high displacement of petroleum fuels.
The American Le Mans Series is the only U.S. and Canadian racing series where you can see a moderately modified Corvette competing with a custom-built race car. It consists of a series of endurance and sprint races, created in the spirit of the original endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is held each year in France. Each race features four classes of vehicles, including two classes of modified production cars (the Grand Touring classes) and two classes of custom-built race cars (the prototype classes). The Green Challenge will provide separate awards to the winners in the Grand Touring classes and the prototype classes, with the results normalized based on each car's weight, average speed, and distance covered during the race. The Petit Le Mans will be held on October 4 at Road Atlanta; next year, the Green Challenge will be extended to the entire racing series. The Green Challenge was developed in association with DOE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and SAE International, an automotive engineering society. See the American Le Mans Series announcement, the Green Challenge ranking system (PDF 44 KB), and the Road Atlanta Web site. Download Adobe Reader.
Meanwhile, two other green races have reached happy conclusions—for the victors, at least. The biodiesel-fueled Earthrace trimaran successfully completed its round-the-world record attempt on June 27, setting a new world speed record for circumnavigation of the globe by a powerboat. The Earthrace reached its starting point in Spain in less than 61 days, beating the previous record by nearly 2 weeks. Further north, the second running of the Frisian Solar Challenge finished on June 28 in Friesland, a northern province of the Netherlands. The Delta Lloyd Solar Boat Team from the Technische Universiteit Delft took first place with a total running time of just over 12 hours. The solar boat race will return in 2010. See the Earthrace press release (PDF 102 KB) and Web site and the Frisian Solar Challenge Web site.