Drayson Racing and Aston University to research second generation biofuels

February 18th, 2011 by Aston University

Drayson Racing and Aston University (UK) have partnered to develop and demonstrate low carbon automotive technologies. The partnership will investigate ‘second generation’ biofuels to create high performance cars with reduced CO2 emissions.

Renewable energy has always been a key concern for Lord Drayson, the former UK Minister for Science, who formed Drayson Racing to act as a racing laboratory to pioneer the development of green technologies and remove reliance on fossil fuels in motor racing.

Last year, Drayson Racing achieved the first ever international pole & win for a bio-ethanol fueled race car in the highly competitive American Le Mans Series endurance race at Road America – proving the effectiveness of its unique 200 mph+ Flex-Fuel race car while producing approximately 40% less carbon impact than the petrol fueled cars that it beat.

Drayson Racings' flex-fueled Lola Coupé involved in the trials (click image to expand)

Next generation biofuels are seen as providing one of the cost effective way of reducing CO2 emissions of internal combustion engines over the next two decades with the extreme conditions experienced in motor racing offering an exciting platform for developing this low carbon technology to a wider audience. They are produced from waste biomass such as straw, wood and sewage sludge, removing reliance on dedicated food crops.

The Drayson Racing and Aston University partnership will in particular investigate:

  • The production of ‘second generation’ biofuels from sources such as organic waste;
  • Improving the stability and reliability of ‘second generation’ biofuels;
  • Enhancing the ability of high performance engines to optimise performance;
  • Developing materials for use in fuel pumps and other areas which are capable of surviving a highly aggressive biofuel environment.

Aston University’s expertise in low carbon and sustainable research includes involvement in the UK’s largest study into long-term low carbon vehicle use, investigating the performance of fuel cells, electric, and hydrogen power cars.

The University’s European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) is a world leader in biofuels and biomass research. Current projects include the transformation of algae, wood waste and sewage sludge into new forms of energy.

Aston’s Polymer, Bioenergy, Mechanical Engineering, Photonics and Computer Science research groups will all be working with Drayson Racing.

Lord Drayson, former UK Minister for Science and Innovation, Managing Partner of Drayson Racing and Aston alumnus, said; “I’m thrilled to be working with Aston University on this exciting and important research area which leverages Aston’s leadership in biofuels research and their established links with the biotech and automotive industries. We have pioneered the use of second-generation cellulosic bio-ethanol in motor racing for over four years.”

He added; “Reducing vehicle emissions is one of the critical challenges of the next 20 years. Road transport accounts for 25 to 35% of CO2 emissions in developed countries, and the major source of these emissions is private cars. We are keen to apply what we have learned on the track to novel products that will improve the performance of future vehicles while reducing their carbon impact.”

Professor Robert Berry, Executive Dean of Engineering at Aston University, said;”This new partnership is extremely exciting for us all. The opportunity to partner with Drayson Racing is particularly unique and motivating: working at the leading edge of this highly competitive sport where engines and drivers are operating at their respective limits will encourage a real acceleration of research results into practice.”


‘Second generation bio-fuels’, do not use food-crops in their production (like biodiesel or ethanol from sugar or starch) but are made from waste biomass (straw, cellulosic materials, agricultural residues). They are seen as providing a cost effective way of reducing CO2 emissions of internal combustion engines over the next two decades. The most prominent liquid examples are ethanol from cellulose instead of sugar or starch or Fischer-Tropsch diesel produced from syngas from gasification of biomass or synthetic natural gas. Gaseous fuels of that kind are bio natural gas from biogas units and synthetic natural gas via biomass gasification. Alternatives to those fuels are additives to existing fuels based on liquid fractions from fast and intermediate pyrolysis of biomass (residue wood, straw, sewage sludge).

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