If you were looking to take a car with a carrot steering wheel and cashew-shell brakes for a spin, you might check the parking lot of Whole Foods, or a driveway in Berkeley. A gas-guzzling, fume-emitting Formula Three race, where the only thing green is the all-clear flag, would probably be the last place on your list. That’s why engineers at the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre in England have taken the bold step of building the world’s greenest racecar to prove that driving fast and protecting the planet can coexist.
The result is an F3 racecar, called the WorldFirst F3, with a two-liter biodiesel engine fueled by vegetable oil left over from frying fish and chips. Test drivers have pushed it to 135 mph and, once the engineers cut new gears, it will hit 160. “It runs very well,” says James Meredith, the project’s lead engineer.
The $250,000 car’s green bona fides are worked into nearly every inch of its frame. In addition to the carrot-based steering wheel, the wing mirror is made with potato starch, and the body consists of recycled plastic bottles and carbon fiber. The engineers lube the engine with plant oil and coat the radiators with BASF PremAir, which converts ground-level ozone to oxygen. Most of the parts are biodegradable but have been mixed with eco-friendly resins that improve durability. Several auto companies (which Meredith can’t yet name) have inquired about the technology, and he looks forward to seeing pros take the wheel. When they do, he’s hoping for a track with lots of turns. “It has a huge amount of grip, so it corners incredibly quickly.”