BMW Is Researching E-fuels With World Superbike Program

Are e-fuels the answer to bridging from petrol-based fuels? BMW intends to research this question through its WSB team. Credit: BMW

BMW is looking towards the future with a new e-fuel research program, with the intention of potentially powering its World Superbike team.

While much of the world moves towards EVs (including MotoGP, with its MotoE all-electric series), there are still many advantages to running an internal combustion engine, particularly in the world of racing, where we have more than a century of development behind this technology. As petroleum products face bans, electric motorcycle technology has still not caught up to the capabilities needed for high-performance racing, and manufacturers are looking for a way to bridge that gap.

At this point, BMW (and others, including Ducati) are looking at e-fuels as the solution. E-fuels are synthetic fuels for internal combustion engines, made by using electrolysis to split water (H²0) into oxygen and hydrogen gas. Then, the process uses carbon dioxide (C0²) to combine with that hydrogen and form methanol (CH³O). Of course, methanol has been used in internal combustion engines for years for various reasons, particularly in the world of racing.

As part of a move to reduce the carbon impact of the series, the organizers behind World Superbike are requiring teams to use 40 percent alternative fuels for 2024, and BMW is now working with NORDOEL, another private partner to test e-fuels for its WSB team. NORDOEL provides the fuel, and BMW does the evaluation of its suitability.

NORDOEL is a natural partner for this project, as it’s involved with many aspects of the alternative fuel industry, including a marketplace that allows for the trade of e-fuels among various manufacturers.

BMW says it is currently testing e-fuels in production-based race-spec engines from both World Superbike and the Endurance World Championship. As per its press release:

The focus is currently on our WorldSBK engine, in which we will use these alternative fuels as early as 2024. We carry out analyses, fuel experts evaluate the fuels from the chemical side, and of course the focus is on the test bench work with operation in the fired engine with the corresponding analyses regarding combustion process, mixture formation, performance and consumption… We also carry out further basic tests with other engines, for example our EWC engine.

Later this year, the fuel will actually be tested under race conditions, and the hope is that down the road, BMW will be able to develop this technology for street-legal bikes. Leaders in Germany (where BMW is based) and Italy (where Ducati, another e-fuel experimenter) is based have been suggesting that the EU move towards an e-fuel friendly stance, as gasoline engines are outlawed. Don’t be surprised if the superbikes of the 2030s are all powered by this sort of fuel as a result.


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