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Drayson Racing and Aston to research low carbon technologies

Drayson Racing Flex-Fuelled, Lola Coupé

Drayson Racing and Aston University have launched a major partnership to develop and demonstrate low carbon automotive technologies.

The partnership will investigate ‘second generation’ biofuels to create high performance cars with reduced CO2 emissions.

Renewable energy has always been a key concern for Lord Drayson, the former UK Minister for Science and Aston alumnus, who formed Drayson Racing to act as a racing laboratory to pioneer the development of green technologies and remove reliance on fossil fuels in motor racing.Last year, Drayson Racing achieved the first ever international pole & win for a bio-ethanol fuelled race car in the highly competitive American Le Mans Series endurance race at Road America – proving the effectiveness of its unique 200 mph+ Flex-Fuel race car while producing approximately 40% less carbon impact than the petrol fuelled cars that it beat. 

Next generation biofuels are seen as providing one of the cost effective way of reducing CO2 emissions of internal combustion engines over the next two decades with the extreme conditions experienced in motor racing offering an exciting platform for developing this low carbon technology to a wider audience. They are produced from waste biomass such as straw, wood and sewage sludge, removing reliance on dedicated food crops.

The Drayson Racing and Aston University partnership will in particular investigate;

  • The production of ‘second generation’ biofuels from sources such as organic waste

  • Improving the stability and reliability of ‘second generation’ biofuel

  • Enhancing the ability of high performance engines to optimise performance

  • Developing materials for use in fuel pumps and other areas which are capable of surviving a highly aggressive biofuel environment.

Aston's expertise in low carbon and sustainable research includes involvement in the UK’s largest study into long-term low carbon vehicle use, investigating the performance of fuel cells, electric, and hydrogen power cars. Current projects include the transformation of algae, wood waste and sewage sludge into new forms of energy.

Lord Drayson said:I’m thrilled to be working with Aston University on this exciting and important research area which leverages Aston’s leadership in biofuels research and their established links with the biotech and automotive industries. We have pioneered the use of second-generation cellulosic bio-ethanol in motor racing for over four years.”

He added: “Reducing vehicle emissions is one of the critical challenges of the next 20 years. Road transport accounts for 25 to 35% of CO2 emissions in developed countries, and the major source of these emissions is private cars. We are keen to apply what we have learnt on the track to novel products that will improve the performance of future vehicles while reducing their carbon impact.”

Professor Robert Berry, Executive Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, said; "This new partnership is extremely exciting for us all. The opportunity to partner with Drayson Racing is particularly unique and motivating: working at the leading edge of this highly competitive sport where engines and drivers are operating at their respective limits will encourage a real acceleration of research results into practice."

Words by Alex Earnshaw
23 February 2011

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