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However, whether it’s sooner or later, even that could change in some form.
NASCAR took a big step in 2012, moving from engines with carburetion to electronic fuel injection. That was following a change in 2011 to the use of Sunoco Green E15 fuel, which is high octane and blended with 15 percent bioethanol.
While NASCAR and its OEMs (original engine manufacturers) all appear to agree on a next step to a form of hybrid technology or electrification, how that will begin and on what timetable seems much more elusive.
“Obviously social and market forces are driving all of us as car manufacturers to be respectful and to be sensitive to put carbon reduction at the front of our business,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development.
“When you take it to the race track, I think every motorsport globally is faced with the same pressures, including NASCAR. The question is how and when and what.
“What I’ll say is all of us sitting up here have been working very closely with NASCAR on new technologies, on a focus towards reduction of carbon, but it continues to be a work in progress.”
NASCAR always looking ahead to the future
At a ‘State of the Sport’ news conference last fall at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR’s chief operating officer, Steve O’Donnell, said the sanctioning body was “still targeting 2024” at the earliest to introduce a separate exhibition electric vehicle series.
“The ideal world for NASCAR is you can show up at a race track and you can see any form of motorsports you want, any type of power, electric, hydrogen,” he said. “You want to see some loud engines going out there – that’s NASCAR, too.”
NASCAR officials confirmed there is no timetable for changes to the engines currently utilized in its premier Cup Series.
Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet, said the OEM is working on “steps to hybridization or testing” in every series in which it participates.
“In IMSA, we are running in the GTP category and we have a hybrid, in IndyCar we have a hybrid coming next year, and I think every series has a hybrid consideration and I think there is going to be some testing in the EV space where we are really going to learn,” he said.
“We have a lot of great internal combustion engines, so we have a foot in both camps and we just have to work with the series and the teams around when is the right place to bring that in, plus the sustainable fuel. The low carbon fuels are important.”
The next step
Mark Rushbrook, global director for Ford Performance Motorsports, said an intermediate step could involve moving to a “low carbon fuel or a responsible fuel” while still utilizing a combustion engine.
“You see that in a lot of other series,” he said. “There’s certainly an opportunity to do it here as well as the overall carbon footprint of the sport, not just what we’re doing on track. I think those are areas we continue to work together as OEM partners and with NASCAR on that, and then electrification, it’s just when the time is right and when the technology is right.
“We’ve got a great formula here with Cup and Xfinity and Trucks and three good national series, but there’s an opportunity to look and do more and try to introduce that technology in a way that makes sense.”
NASCAR officials said Friday they continue to look at ways to evolve sustainability throughout sport, including fuel.