Attention Gearheads: Green Racing Ahead!
Jun 25, 2008 01:39 PM
Back in the early days of motor racing, when the automobile was still a fairly new technology, drivers would show up at the â€œtrackâ€ with the fastest cars that they could get their hands on. People generally didnâ€™t care too much whether a vehicle was powered by an I-6, a V-8, a V-12, a steam engine or an electric motor. All that mattered in those grand-olâ€™ days of â€œunlimitedâ€ racing was who could round the oval in the least amount of time to finish first.
As car racing developed as a sport, competition classes emerged with sanctioning bodies issuing more or less well-defined specifications regarding what technologies and structural types would be allowed to run in each particular category. Hence, the current plethora of different racing formatsâ€”Formula 1, Indy Car, NASCAR and so forthâ€”eventually emerged.
Nowadays, as concerns mount over the well-being of Earthâ€™s environment, some critics have called for the end of car racing as a profligate waste of dwindling resources and an unnecessary drag on our future prospects. Others have meanwhile advocated ending the use of automobiles altogether.
Most people will readily agree that the car isnâ€™t going away anytime soon, so in the meantime we can at least work on making it more environmentally friendly. In auto racing circles, no one has gone further than the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in promulgating the novel philosophy of â€œwinning the race, but in the cleanest way possible.â€ ALMS, in concert with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have recently announced its Green Challenge, a new set of rules, regulations and protocols that adds new green criteria to the standard competition.
Beyond winning races, entrants will be evaluated in a â€œrace-with-a raceâ€ for the amount of energy they use, the quantity of greenhouse gases they emit and the volume of petroleum-based fuel they displace. Best of all, not only will greener race cars be demonstrated publicly, car manufacturers will get the opportunity to try out (and show off) new high-efficiency engines, alternative fuels and other advanced auto tech under some of the more grueling conditions in the racing business. The thought is that some of these innovations could some day make their way onto dealership showrooms. Notably, car makers are reportedly champing at the bit to reap the positive publicity they could garner from winning such contests.
ALMS and its partners (including researchers at Argonne National Laboratory) have developed a rather involved formula that â€œnormalizesâ€ the use of new technologies to ensure a level playing field among the participants.
For those who are less familiar with car racing, the ALMS is a sports car racing series based in the U.S. and Canada that consists of a series of endurance and sprint events. ALMS was created in the spirit of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, the all-day and all-night endurance car meet that has been held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France. It focuses on the ability of auto makers to build sporty, yet highly reliable cars.
The first ALMS Green Challenge competition is slated for its signature event, the Petit Le Mans, on October 4, 2008 at the Road Atlanta course in Braselton, Georgia.
Imagine, within a few years, racing fans and motorheads alike could witness exotic hybrid
sports cars, or vehicles fitted with ultracapacitors or flywheel
energy-recovery systems (or whatever) screaming around road courses. And just maybe, they could then drive those green technologies themselves in standard cars not too long afterwards.
For more information on the ALMS Green Challenge, go here
Edited by Steven Ashley at 06/25/2008 1:39 PM
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