Tech Talk: Professor Prost makes perfect sense

Alain+Prost

Alain Prost has always demanded respect in a ratio immensely converse to his diminutive stature. So it’s good to see a colossus in the world of motoring stand up and challenge the idiot ‘establishment’.

Concerned by the relevance of Formula 1 amidst knee-jerk looming bans of Internal Combustion Engines in all cars on the back of draconian carbon penalties based on the increasingly contentious issue of ‘global warming’; ‘the Professor’ makes some most interesting suggestions about F1’s role in the future of the motorcar.

“I am really upset about what I see today with the automobile industry,” Prost admitted. “You don’t want to go with electrical … so what is the technology for Formula 1 in the future? “It is difficult to know — on one side, and it’s not my position, we go back to 12 cylinder and we have the same vision of F1 worldwide. “And why not?

“But who is going to push the button and make that decision? “It is very difficult, but it’s good to ask the question and we need to talk about sustainability all the time: what we can do, but the technology is very, very difficult and we cannot, like in my period follow the trend of the automobile industry — today it is much more difficult.”

The four-time world champion’s pertinent if subliminal suggestion that Formula 1 should lead the way rather than just follow current trends comes on the back of the sport’s intimations of a future away from pure electric. F1 wants synthetic green-fuelled two-stroke engines to make all the right noises, not just on track but also in the correct message about what should power the motorcars our grandchildren will drive.

There is no doubt that we must curb the carbon content of our atmosphere, but at what cost? Although their ongoing development holds incredible potential for practical cleaner sustainable future mobility solutions, internal combustion engines are under threat with development already suspended on diesels and improvements on petrol power now also compromised by looming bans on ICEs to improbable deadlines.

That despite dramatic progress in both petrol and diesel engines in the past quarter-century. But regimes wring their hands in glee at the prospect of billions in carbon revenue from carmaker fines to fuel company penalties. And of course taxing you too. So rather than continue to refine their already excellent ICEs, today’s auto industry is absolutely invested in e-cars as it scrambles to meet ‘demand’.

But are Battery Electric Vehicles really the answer? Can an electric car ever match the versatility and practicality of a petrol, diesel or even a hybrid? And what about the international infrastructure to support 80-million new e-cars a year, let alone the existing car park as the BEV population hypothetically explodes by that number every year?

That also raises questions about how already-overloaded power networks will cope and where the infrastructure to fast charge millions of e-cars will come from, never mind how many of them will still be charged by coal-fired powered stations?

Add questions around the thorny dilemma of meeting the mushrooming demand, sourcing and extraction of poisonous battery components, let alone where and how all that toxic mess will be disposed of when it’s done with, and one starts to wonder about the real allure of the electric car. Another concern is if the already embattled carmakers can pull an impossible transformation off in an unattainable timeframe?

All of which makes one wonder if it really is plausible, possible or probable that it can all be in place by the time certain genii reckon an ICE ban must be in place in 2035…?

Internal combustion engines powered by next-generation clean fuels however offer a considerably more plausible and sustainable green motoring future with so many advantages over electric cars. People are more than comfortable with ICE practicality, versatility and simplicity — all aspects compromised by BEV motoring and there is no need to e-equip the world with e-car charging infrastructure — next gen ICEs only need clean new fuels to be stored in existing gas station reservoirs. And there are no questions around sourcing or the disposal of ICE components.

Now Formula 1 has already suggested a future rulebook embracing orgasmic-sounding high-revving clean-fuelled 2-stroke hybrid ICEs and Prost has more than just a pertinent point that this future concept is not just an opportunity for Formula 1 to show the way, but it is also the sport’s duty to lead the world to the future of motoring by showcasing the real sustainable technology our grandchildren will drive.

So what would you prefer — are we just going to lie there and allow clueless and greedy politicians to kick us in the direction they want motoring to go? Or as Alain Prost suggests, should Formula 1 lead the way to define the essence of the real sustainable future of the motorcar…?