Synthetic fuels are the future of F1, says former world champion Nico Rosberg

The future of Formula One lies in synthetic fuels, according to Nico Rosberg, with the former world champion telling CNBC that they could potentially act as a bridge to electric mobility.

In an interview with CNBC’s Tania Bryer during the Sustainable Future Forum last week, Rosberg also threw his weight behind e-mobility, describing it as “the way forward” while also acknowledging that the sector faced challenges.  

Rosberg’s comments on synthetic fuels come after F1 announced plans to “help develop a 100% sustainable fuel” that could be dropped into standard internal combustion engines.

In a statement at the beginning of October, F1 said the lab-created fuel would use “components that come from either a carbon capture scheme, municipal waste or non-food biomass.” It would achieve “greenhouse gas emissions savings relative to fossil-derived petrol of at least 65%.”

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

In his interview with CNBC, Rosberg — who won his title in 2016 and now describes himself as a “sustainability entrepreneur” — claimed it would be decades before electric mobility penetrated emerging markets.

“If, potentially, we could create a bridge there … with synthetic fuels, it could have such a huge impact globally,” he said. “And if Formula One can play a role in that I’ll be very, very proud.”

Rosberg’s comments come at a time when major, developed economies are attempting to reduce the environmental footprint of road-based transportation.

The U.K., for example, wants to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans by 2030. It will require, from 2035, all new cars and vans to have zero-tailpipe emissions.

Elsewhere, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is targeting a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions from cars and vans by 2035.

On the electric vehicle sector in general, Rosberg said: “E-mobility is the way forward, certainly, but there are challenges.”

“Battery manufacturing — and particularly battery recycling — is going to be a big challenge … but also a huge business opportunity,” he added.

Efforts are already being made to address what to do with batteries. In 2020, for instance, Norsk Hydro and Northvolt set up a joint venture called Hydrovolt.

The overarching aim of Hydrovolt is to set up a hub for the recycling of batteries in Norway, a country where electric vehicle adoption is significant.

Operations at the facility — which will be able to process over 8,000 metric tons of batteries annually — are slated to commence this year.

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