Motorsport and mainstream motoring are giving encouraging signals about their willingness to embrace green technology according to the UK’s Minister for Science and Innovation.
But Lord Drayson, who is also team principal of the Drayson Racing sportscar team, told a Motorsport Industry Association conference in Long Beach that he wants to see even more radical innovation in the future.
Present to compete in the local American Le Mans Series round, the minister said he was generally optimistic at the development of cleaner and greener motoring, in both the US and the UK.
He gave examples including the development of charging networks for electric cars, work on low-carbon vehicles and race teams demonstrating the successful performance of biofuels.
He told the conference: “The novelty factor has passed. But our efforts go on. As I’ve said before, we race to win.
“All race technology is a means to that end – but green engineering isn’t a temporary endeavour. So long as the rules create incentives to push the boundaries of clean technologies, teams will innovate.
“And it’s the most promising innovations which will attract media attention and generate coverage. Right now, however, I don’t think the current rules do enough to stimulate the pace of innovation that motorsport is capable of.”
He said that he would like to see rules that encouraged teams to develop energy-efficient cars, and rewarded them for doing so, as well as teams using the latest social media tools to share ideas on innovation.
“Our image as technologically sophisticated and abidingly cool can change hearts and minds. It can persuade consumers that green cars on the road also have cachet.
“My sense at the moment is that motorsport risks losing some of its influence; that, instead of next-generation green technologies emerging from the pit lane, they look like coming from the mass-market car plants.”
He stressed his commitment to the principles of science as the way to solve the large-scale problems facing the world and, on climate change, he added: “I’m in no doubt that the scientific argument remains watertight.”
He urged motorsport teams, suppliers and series to therefore stick with their commitment to low-carbon racing, to work with government and politicians to find ways of reducing their environmental footprint and that of mainstream motoring, and to recognise the immense potential profitability of technological innovation in this field.
He concluded: “Motorsport has been at the vanguard of green technology. It must remain there. To do so is good for business. It’s better for the planet. And it can be the best thing for competition across the board.
“But the people to make this happen have to be those of us in this room. We’re the ones who must seek out investors. We’re the ones who must look to develop further partnerships with other sectors, and lobby for rules which accelerate innovation.
“Since we’re in the US, I reckon I can get away with quoting Ralph Emerson: ‘Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.’
“So let’s seize the agenda and demonstrate that we really mean business.”
Read the full text of Lord Drayson’s speech on the Drayson Racing website here.