The Surprising Booze A French Company Is Using To Power Race Cars

As a rule of thumb, when liquor and fast cars come together it doesn't end well for anyone. Nevertheless, one oil company is attempting to shake up the racing world — and help the environment — one wine-fueled ride at a time.

Last month, the French oil company TotalEnergies announced the creation of a new 100% renewable form of race car fuel that has the potential to reduce a race car's total carbon dioxide emissions by over 65% and completely revolutionize the racing industry in the process (via Business Wire). In true French fashion, the key to this new form of energy is none other than wine itself. 

The bioethanol fuel, which has been named "Excellium Racing 100," is made from residues of the French wine industry, including grape pomace (the solid remains left behind after juice extraction) and wine lees (leftover yeast particles from the fermentation process). These wine remnants are combined with a gasoline additive called ETBE, sourced from feedstock at the oil company's Lyon refinery, to create a fuel that is not only completely renewable, but also meets the requirements of the high-performance racing vehicles it will be powering. 

TotalEnergies has been the official fuel supplier of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) — France's largest automobile organization, which holds the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans car race every year — since 2018. The oil company worked in partnership with the ACO to develop the sustainable fuel in hopes of moving the racing industry forward into a more environmentally conscious future.

This new form of renewable fuel could change car racing forever

As a precursor to the 100% renewable Excellium Racing 100, TotalEnergies debuted the "Excellium Endurance" fuel, which features 10% bioethanol, at the recent 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The company plans to officially debut the new sustainable fuel during the next season of FIA World Endurance Championship races, which includes the famed European Le Mans endurance racing series. 

According to Automobile Club de l'Ouest President Pierre Fillon, "Increasing awareness of social and environmental matters over the last few years has led the motor racing world to focus deeply on these issues." Fillon celebrated the organization's partnership with the fuel company, saying that "our long-standing partner TotalEnergies channels its expertise into developing sustainable solutions. This new, fully renewable fuel is testament to our wholehearted commitment."

"Our ambition is to be a major player in the energy transition and to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050," said Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and CEO of TotalEnergies, at the announcement of the new form of renewable fuel. "Advanced biofuels have an undeniable part to play in helping the transport sector to reduce its CO2 emissions immediately. Pouyanné also said that the company is making progress on evolutions in "sustainable liquid fuels, electricity, batteries," and more by treating the race track as "an open-air laboratory" for future racing innovations.

While it's unknown when — if ever — everyday drivers could fill up their tanks with this new renewable fuel option, in the meantime, sustainably fueling the world's most high-octane, high-speed vehicles is a big step toward a cleaner automobile industry overall.