Technology | Biofuel from grapes for the cars of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Since it exists, motorsport puts drivers and machines in competition in order to designate a winner, but it is also a formidable laboratory where manufacturers test their latest innovations which will then benefit production cars. Thus appeared, among other things, on the Le Mans circuit, fog lights in 1926, front-wheel drive in 1927, radial tires in 1951, disc brakes in 1953, iodine headlights in 1962, the turbo engine in 1974, the hybrid engine in 1998, the racing diesel in 2006. The extreme constraints of endurance – race duration, high speed and mileage – lead to the development of ever more efficient fuels which must also meet the new requirements of the ecological transition.

In 2022, in partnership with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO, organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, editor’s note), TotalEnergies to supply the FIA ​​World Endurance Championship with 100% renewable fuel without a single drop of petroleum » explains Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of TotalEnergies. Its name: Excellium Racing 100.

“Our raw material comes only from the recycling of agricultural waste”

“This biofuel is the result of eighteen months of research and development. We discussed with the ACO and the manufacturers. Our specifications meet both the European directive on renewable energies and also the specificities of a racing fuel” comments Romain Aubray, multi-energy technical manager at TotalEnergies. This new bioethanol, entirely from the circular economy and containing no drop of petroleum, is produced on a bioethanol base obtained mainly from wine residues, through a process of fermentation, distillation and then dehydration of wine lees and grape marc. This base is then mixed with ETBE (Ethyl Tertio Butyl Ether), itself 100% renewable. Finally, a pack of performance additives derived from Excellium technology completes the formulation of this fuel.

“Excellium Racing 100 is formulated from compounds derived from biomass without exerting stress on agricultural land or forest resources. Our raw material comes only from the recycling of agricultural waste” says Lisa Serve, fuel development manager at TotalEnergies.

7 euros per liter

Compared to a traditional competition fuel, the Excellium 100 will allow a 65% reduction in CO emissions2on its life cycle. The latter is produced at the TotalEnergies refinery in Feyzin (69) with local winemaking by-products from the Rhône Valley.

This new fuel has already been used on March 18 in Florida, during the 1000 Miles of Sebring, the first round of the World Endurance Championship, without any problems being reported. “It is extremely promising that TotalEnergies is leading the way in 100% renewable fuels. I am totally convinced that the FIA ​​WEC and the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) are ideal laboratories for TotalEnergies and its brand new biofuel. Endurance racing remains the ultimate test wearing all products intended for everyday life » rejoiced Frédéric Lequien, FIA WEC & ELMS General Manager.

For now, the Excellium Racing 100 remains very expensive with a price of around 7 euros per liter. It remains to be seen whether and when it will be able to be used by production vehicles.

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