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Mercedes becomes first sports outfit to invest in sustainable aviation fuel

Leading Formula 1 team Mercedes has committed a multi-million euro pledge to accelerate sustainable aviation fuel development. The wider sport is aiming for net zero by 2030 and Mercedes wants to play a central role in stemming its current criticism.

When it comes to sustainability, Formula 1 and Motorsport in general has anything but a clean rap sheet.

Only weeks ago we were reminded of this when campaigners from Just Stop Oil invaded the Silverstone track to protest new fossil fuel projects in the UK.

Last year, the Mercedes team calculated that it was responsible for emitting at least 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide per season – the equivalent of heating roughly 3,000 homes for a year.

Take into account the combined ecological footprint of all 20 competitive teams, and you’re looking at close to 255,000 tons.

You may be surprised to hear that the actual racing isn’t the big problem either. Tyres on tracks are responsible for just 0.7% of the sport’s emissions, while the constant long-haul flights between venues for passengers and equipment are by far the biggest contributor.

In-fact, across an entire nine month World Championship, the 20 cars typically burn around 150,000 litres of fuel. This same volume is used up in single Boeing 747 flight with duration of 10+ hours.

It’s understandable then, given that F1 is targeting net zero emissions by 2030, that its big hitters need to address the route problem of the sport’s sizable footprint. Mercedes has just become the first to do so.

Despite the valid logistical concerns surrounding sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), Mercedes is heavily pinning its own eco drive (pun intended) on helping to accelerate its production.

The motor giant has pledged to invest more than €4m in refineries for the production of waste-derived fuels. It has declined to name the beneficiary of this sum, but we already know that its team sponsor Petronas has recently supplied SAF to numerous airlines.

‘I fly a lot, the team flies a lot. If we must fly, then we need to find a better way to do so and SAF is the best solution available to the aviation industry right now,’ says Mercedes chief executive officer Toto Wolff.

On that note, industry experts claim that SAF can reduce aviation’s emission toll by up to 80%, though the level of production needed for any notable impact isn’t yet there.

According to trade firm Iata, 450bn litres of SAF will be required annually to meet flight demands and just 100m litres were produced in 2021.

Unfortunately then, we have to take this commitment with a pinch of salt. With 8 years remaining until the net zero deadline is up, SAF remains the ‘key pillar’ of its sustainability strategy – their words, not mine.

If anything, at least it brings yet more attention to the ludicrous ecological stain caused by the aviation industry.


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