While car racing may not rank high in the echelon of environmentally friendly activities, the sport nevertheless is slowly starting to integrate some green elements.

John C. Glenn, an environmental specialist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been working with race organizers for years to integrate measurements of a car's efficiency and environmental impact into contests. Those discussions finally came to a head last October when the American Le Mans Series conducted its first Green Challenge, a "race within a race." From the article,

Rather than holding a separate competition for green vehicles, the Green Challenge judges scored the cars already entered in the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans endurance race at Road Atlanta, using a formula that accounted for the cars' energy efficiency, greenhouse-gas emission and petroleum-equivalent fuel cost. The Le Mans race was the perfect place to start, Glenn said, because the rules permit a wide range of "street-legal" fuels including E10 and E85 ethanol blends, sulfur-free diesel and gas-electric hybrids.

While some vehicles didn't place at the conclusion of the actual race, others -- like the Chevy Corvette -- ranked near the top in the Green Challenge. Obviously, winning Le Mans would have been nicer financially, but companies recognize the incentives of touting their green credentials as well; and race organizers have since decided to extend the contest all this season as the Michelin Green X Challenge.

"These are still 200-mph cars. We clearly did not want to change racing. We didn't want to make it boring and slow," Glenn says. "We didn't feel as if that would accomplish our goal, which is to get people to use more energy-efficient vehicles and to stimulate the development of more energy-efficient technologies."

It's great to see the EPA working with racing organizations to get more green tech integrated and featured zooming by. One day, perhaps all of the vehicles racing at Les Mans will be of the electric variety. Until then, the Green X Challenge is a solid step in the right direction.


Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

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