The American Le Mans Series announced at the North American International Auto Show at Detroit on Monday that it has partnered with government agencies to continue its "green racing" initiative. The history-making agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy as well as SAE International will see the series continue to create environmentally conscious programs, including the newly announced "Green Racing Challenge."
With these initiatives, the ALMS has become the first motorsports series to meet the criteria for green racing by these three groups.
"The auto manufacturers competing in the American Le Mans Series have made it very clear that this is a direction and an overall initiative that is important to them," said Scott Atherton, president and CEO of the ALMS. "The opportunity to formally align with the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and SAE International makes our platform very special and unique -- to auto manufacturers and ultimately to consumers. At a time when nearly all of motorsports has lost its relevance regarding progressive technology or any connection from the race track to the showroom floor, the American Le Mans Series stands alone in providing a platform of solutions for our nation's automotive, transportation and energy needs."
After a successful integration of E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline) fuel in 2007, the series, in conjunction with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), will introduce E85 fuel as an option starting in 2008. In a separate announcement today at the NAIAS, Corvette Racing revealed that it has formed a technical partnership with EPIC to showcase E85 fuel in the series. The team's Corvette C6.Rs will run on the 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline blend fuel this season.
"By showcasing the capabilities of E85 ethanol before an audience of knowledgeable and technically astute race fans, we can demonstrate the benefits of a renewable fuel that helps to reduce dependence on petroleum, helps to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and helps to create greater diversity in energy supplies," said GM General Manager Ed Peper. "Of course, performance is what counts in racing, so E85 ethanol's higher octane rating than gasoline wasn't overlooked by the Corvette Racing engineers."
GM Road Racing Group manager Steve Wesoloski said that the transition from E10 to E85 ethanol will be seamless, since the fuel systems were already compatible with ethanol. They are targeting the season-opening Twelve Hours of Sebring for the debut of its E85-powered cars.
"This is the first time a racing series has made a commitment to E85; the highest performing fuel available to consumers with flex-fuel vehicles," said Reece Nanfito, senior director of marketing for EPIC. "Our partnership with GM and Corvette Racing demonstrates ethanol's growing relevance in the consumer market."
Chevrolet has more than 2.5 million E85-capable vehicles on the road in the United States today, with production numbers doubling from 400,000 to 800,000 by 2010.
In addition to E10 and E85, the series also supports the environmentally friendly "clean diesel" fuel that powers the Audi R10 TDIs and is open to other new technologies, including electric hybrid racecars.
"The fact that manufacturers are already actively competing with these alternative fuels makes our association with the series a natural fit," said Ed Wall, Program Manager for Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program of the DOE. "We also hope that other automotive manufacturers will enter and compete with exciting new technologies they have developed - technologies that will not just make them competitive on the race circuit, but in the consumer automotive market, as well."
The new series-wide "Green Racing Challenge" will encourage manufacturers to develop green technologies. It will be an element of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 4. Further details on the award are being developed by the EPA, DOE, SAE International and the series, and will be announced later this spring.
"This partnership between government and industry to use the American Le Mans Series as an incubator to accelerate the development of new, relevant and practical automotive technologies that will use less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gasses and air pollutants further emphasizes the American Le Mans Series as the global leader in this important area," Atherton added.
"This support by EPA and DOE in conjunction with the SAE comes at a time when manufacturers and consumers alike are looking for 'green' solutions. We are the only series in which manufacturers can aggressively develop breakthrough technologies for automobiles that consumers will ultimately buy and drive, reinforcing the American Le Mans Series as the most relevant racing series in the world."