Alternative fuels: BMW Motorrad Motorsport part of an innovative and government-supported research project.

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Munich. International motorcycle racing is setting course for
greater sustainability. In doing so, one area to address is that of
fuel. With this in mind, the Superbike commission of the FIM World
Superbike Championship (WorldSBK) has decided that, as in MotoGP,
the fuels used must be made from at least 40 percent fossil-free
components as of the 2024 season. BMW Motorrad Motorsport is
preparing intensively for this and is heavily involved in the
development of such alternative fuels, as a partner of the company
NORDOEL within the government-supported joint project DeCarTrans.


 
DeCarTrans stands for ‘Demonstrating a Circular Carbon
Economy in Transport Along the Value Chain’. Along with other
companies and research centres, one of the associated partners is the
Lother Group, to which NORDOEL belongs. The project partners want to
demonstrate how renewable fuels can be produced on an industrial
scale, with the goal being to significantly reduce
CO2 emissions in the existing fleet. The joint project
DeCarTrans is being promoted by the Federal Ministry for Digital and
Transport. Within the framework of DeCarTrans, NORDOEL decided to work
with BMW Motorrad Motorsport on the research and development of
alternative fuels.
 
“We are pleased to be technology
partner for a climate-neutral future as part of DeCarTrans,” said Dirk
Wullenweber, Area Manager for Marketing & Commercial Fuels at
NORDOEL. “Previous studies have already shown that synthetically
produced fuels can partially or completely replace conventional petrol
in the existing fleet. This is a very good basis for the further
development of our alternative fuels, in which we have consciously
selected BMW Motorrad Motorsport as our partner. In motor racing,
totally different demands are placed on a fuel compared to those faced
in everyday use. BMW Motorrad Motorsport has the know-how, experts and
measuring facilities to test and analyse all aspects of our fuels at
the limit. This allows us to develop a top-quality, alternative
high-performance fuel for motor racing and everyday use. We, and the
entire DeCarTrans project, benefit from the insights gained in Munich
in our efforts to minimise the emission of
pollutants.”
 
The joint project DeCarTrans, which got
underway in January 2023, was recently presented in greater detail in
Hamburg, as part of the launch of the ‘Hamburg Blue Hub’ project – a
trading point, open to all suppliers and customers, for eMethanol and
other synthetic fuels from all over the world. Also on display at the
launch were vehicles, in which the alternative fuels may be used in
the future, including the BMW M 1000 RR from the FIM Superbike World Championship.
 
Test procedures at the limit.

Examples of partially alternative fuels that will be used in
WorldSBK from 2024 include biologically based fuels like eFuels, which
are produced from water and CO2 extracted from the air in
chemical processes with renewable electricity. BMW Motorrad Motorsport
puts these fuels through intensive test procedures, in which they are
pushed to their limit, for NORDOEL. In doing so, they are also
preparing for the future of WorldSBK. The advantage of the alternative
fuels is that they can be used in conventional combustion engines –
including in high-performance racers like the BMW M 1000
RR.
 
“NORDOEL supplies us with alternative fuels, which we
test under different conditions on our engine test bench,” said Thomas
von Westberg, who is responsible for the project at BMW Motorrad
Motorsport. “The focus is currently on our WorldSBK engine, in which
we will be using these alternative fuels as soon as 2024. We perform
analyses, fuel experts evaluate the fuel from a chemical perspective,
and the focus is obviously on the work carried out on the test bench
to see how it performs when the engine is fired up, with corresponding
analyses of the combustion process, carburetion, performance and
consumption. Then there are other issues that come with alternative
fuels. We also perform basic tests with other engines, such as our EWC
engine. We play the results back to NORDOEL, and colleagues there can
then make appropriate adjustments. The result is transparent and close
communication. The goal of the development is a fuel that meets FIA
regulations and can, at the same time, achieve the best possible
performance and consumption figures in combination with our WorldSBK engine.”
 
Special demands of motor racing.

The measuring technology of the motorsport test bench allows the
BMW Motorrad Motorsport engineers to handle every detail. “We see what
happens in the engine,” explained von Westberg. “Through corresponding
applications, we can correct the parameters that are influenced by the
fuel itself, such as the octane rating. This makes the engine more or
less sensitive to knocking. We can then vary things like the ignition
timing accordingly. The necessary automations and analysis systems are
available to us for the many different topics that we
analyse.”
 
The demands placed on an alternative fuel used
in motor racing are even more specific than those placed on a fuel for
production motorcycles. “One issue is combustion and sensitivity to
knocking, as our engines are far more condensed than production
motorcycles,” said von Westberg. “On the other hand, a fuel must
obviously always provide a performance advantage. Then it is important
to guarantee a consistent performance throughout the entire lifecycle
of the engine.” The first tests with the alternative fuels from
NORDOEL have already provided many positive findings.
 
From the racetrack to the streets.

As a research and development department, BMW Motorrad
Motorsport is also working very closely with its production colleagues
on the subject of alternative fuels. The departments share all the
results of their respective analyses and are regularly in close
communication. “Our technical objective is for the partially
alternative racing fuel, which we use in WorldSBK, to also be usable
in a production bike,” explained von Westberg. “That is also the
thinking within the DeCarTrans project and the NORDOEL goal of
developing a racing fuel that is also suitable for production
vehicles.”
 
There was already a close relationship with
production, as the basis engine for WorldSBK is the production engine
for the BMW M 1000 RR. Von Westberg: “The WorldSBK racing engine has
many production parts, such as the injection system and fuel pump
among others. However, with our racing engine we are obviously always
working to the very limit. That means that if something works for us
on the racing scene, then it will most probably also work in a
production bike in comparable load conditions.”
 
Initial
tests with the new alternative fuels at the racetrack are planned for
this year, in order to prepare as well as possible for the use of
partially alternative fuels in the 2024 WorldSBK season.

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