Racing ahead with biofuels – Bentley, BMW, Porsche, others embrace biofuels

July 11, 2021 |

Bentley’s Continental GT3 Pikes Peak racecar proved to be fastest racecar running on renewable fuel at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2021, beating out all other sustainability-focused entrants (like Tesla’s Model S and an Acura NSX). Another car manufacturer, BMW, invested $12.5 million into Prometheus Fuels saying, “Prometheus will make drop-in replacement fuels that are guilt-free. Prometheus will help to fuel the power of choice.” Porsche is working with ExxonMobil to test advanced biofuels and eFuels made from hydrogen and CO2. But some luxury car manufacturers aren’t doing much to support biofuels.

In today’s Digest, a look at what Bentley, BMW, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and others are doing to advance biofuels, who’s silent, what it all means, and more.


Let’s start with the latest news from luxury car maker United Kingdom-based Bentley (owned by Volkswagen AG), where their Bentley Continental GT3 Pikes Peak proved to be fastest racecar running on renewable fuel at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2021 in Colorado, beating out all other sustainability-focused entrants, including fully electric competitors. Driven by former King of the Mountain Rhys Millen (NZ), it finished 2nd in the Time Attack 1 and a stunning 4th overall.

Why is this such an impressive finish? Well, considering there were 54 hyper-tuned racecars that included Porsches, Camaros, BMWs, and even “open wheel” specials built uniquely for this race, then yes, it is impressive indeed that this biofuel-powered racecar did so well.

According to Automotive News Europe, the 4.0-liter, V8 engine ran on a blend of 98RON Renewable racing biofuel, a low-carbon, high-octane fuel made from a dedicated blend of advanced biofuels specifically designed for motorsport, which produces 85 percent less greenhouse gas than regular gasoline, though they did not specify what the biofuel feedstock was or what biofuel company or companies provided it.

So what’s the cost for this special racecar biofuel?

According to Bloomberg, “Paul Williams, Bentley’s director of motorsport, declined to name the exact cost of making it but said the fuel costs roughly five times the price of gasoline yet a fraction of the price of efuels derived from hydrogen and synthesized methanol.”

“It’s still maybe not cheap enough for every driver, but for those who drive our cars, we have a fighting chance of making it work,” says Williams, noting that efuels such as those Porsche is testing cost more than a hundred times as much as gasoline. “More than 80% of all Bentleys ever made are still on the road. So the idea is that our owners could put this fuel directly into their own cars and use them seamlessly as before.”

This latest race running on a biofuel Bentley also marks the start of a long-term renewable fuels program that has the ultimate goal of being able to offer genuinely sustainable fuels to Bentley customers. Bentley’s 2021 PPIHC project also signals the start of a new focus on sustainability for Bentley’s Motorsport department, with every area of Bentley now concentrating on delivering the brand’s Beyond100 strategy to transform into the world’s leading sustainable luxury mobility company. The 750+ bhp Continental GT3 Pikes Peak is Bentley’s first renewably-powered racecar, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Continental GT3 Pikes Peak was jointly developed by a collaborative team of Bentley, Fastr, Roger Clark Motorsport, M-Sport and Rhys Millen Racing.

Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Paul Williams, said, “I’m proud to have entered such a strong renewably-powered racecar – the fastest at the event – and equally proud of the team that’s delivered this project. This is the first step on Bentley’s renewable fuel journey, and there will be many more opportunities to come. Perhaps we’ll even come back to Pikes Peak next year.”

The Digest reported as early as December 2020 that Bentley Motors was the first luxury automotive brand to run its in-house logistics on 100% renewable fuels – that’s right, 100%. This follows the installation of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fueling facilities at its site in Crewe, UK.

A 34,000 liter ‘Green D+’ HVO tank and pump now fuels the ten HGV logistics trucks that transfer parts between Bentley’s Crewe site and storage depot in Winsford on a daily basis and over 20 smaller on-site security vehicles and delivery vans. The 250 plus forklift trucks and tow motors used inside the factory are already being charged with green electricity generated in part by Bentley’s 30,000 on-site solar panels.


As reported in The Digest in March on our Reimagining CO2 coverage of Prometheus Fuels capturing transport energy out of thin air, BMW invested $12.5 million into Prometheus. A section of the official BMW website declared that “By perfecting existing chemical reactions and processes, Prometheus will make drop-in replacement fuels that are guilt-free. Prometheus will help to fuel the power of choice.” Now the Norwegian fund Tjuvholmen Ventures has also made an investment of undisclosed size.

As BMW notes, “The modularity of the approach will enable micro-cells of gasoline production where there is a surplus of renewable energy available.” And they noted that the “salvaged CO2 encounters renewable electricity in an electrochemical stack called the Faraday Reactor. The electricity “charges” the carbon with hydrogen molecules from the water to create long-chain alcohols, releasing pure oxygen.


Porsche has been looking not only into biofuels but biobased car components, doubling up on their sustainability efforts for their vehicles. They created a hemp and flax-based composite racecar in 2019 for their 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport (which will set you back about $150,000 to $175,000), they launched an eFuels pilot project in Chile with Siemens Energy which is expected to yield the world’s first integrated, commercial, industrial-scale plant for making synthetic climate-neutral fuels (eFuels).

But most importantly, and recently, Porsche is working with ExxonMobil to test advanced biofuels and renewable, lower-carbon eFuels, as part of a new agreement to find pathways toward potential future consumer adoption.

The first iteration of Esso Renewable Racing Fuel is a blend of primarily advanced biofuels and is specially formulated by ExxonMobil’s in-house team of scientists and engineers. The fuel will be tested in race conditions with Porsche’s high-performance motorsports engines during the 2021 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race series which is going on now until September at 8 different circuits in 8 different countries around Europe.

Porsche and ExxonMobil’s collaboration will also focus on eFuels, which are synthetic fuels made from hydrogen and captured carbon dioxide. As early as 2022, the companies plan to test the second iteration of Esso Renewable Racing Fuel, which will contain eFuel components. The eFuel is anticipated to achieve a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of up to 85 percent, when blended to current market fuel standards for today’s passenger vehicles.

What about Tesla, Porsche, Lamborghini, Audi and other luxury leaders?

We haven’t heard much from some like Lamborghini, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and others on the biofuels side of things, and Audi while not that vocal about biofuels has definitely been supporting more sustainable innovations by looking at chemical recycling of automotive plastics, and using recycled PET bottles in upholstery and carpeting in their new A3s, as reported in the Digest in November 2020.

Tesla’s focus has been on electric cars, and as reported in The Digest in May, is seeking EPA permission to participate in the RIN market which is currently dominated by ethanol and could divert the focus from biofuels to electricity produced from biogas. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing applications from the eight companies, a decision about which is expected this summer.

Ferrari is one we wonder about as The Digest reported on their use of E85 to add 225 horsepower to one of their car upgrades back in 2012, and that Virent was supplying the Scuderia Ferrari race team with a blend of biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol as well as biogas, made by Wisconsin-based Virent – but that was in 2010 and it’s been pretty silent since then.

Like Jaguar who in 2008 said they were partnering with Lotus Engineering to create an advanced biofuel engine called the Omnivore, and has since gone silent too.

Rolls-Royce hasn’t been focused on biofuels for cars, but they sure have for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). As reported in The Digest just a few days ago, Shell and Rolls-Royce signed an MoU furthering their SAF collaboration and will expand and accelerate several existing areas of cooperation between the companies such as SAF. This includes Rolls-Royce’s new SAFinity service, for which Shell is the exclusive SAF supplier, and working together on demonstrating the use of 100% SAF as a full “drop-in” solution. This will see the companies explore opportunities to help progress the use of 100% SAF towards certification, building on Rolls-Royce’s ongoing 100% SAF testing program.

Rolls-Royce has also been working with Airbus and Neste and in March launched the world’s first in-flight emissions study using 100% SAF on a wide-body commercial passenger aircraft. Findings from the study – to be carried out on the ground and in the air using an Airbus A350-900 aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines – will support efforts currently underway at Airbus and Rolls-Royce to ensure the aviation sector is ready for the large-scale use of SAF as part of the wider initiative to decarbonize the industry.

Bottom Line

It’s like when we were kids in school…the cool kid comes in with new sneakers that everyone now wants. And that’s how these ‘cool kid’ luxury car manufacturers could help ‘fuel’ the biofuel industry further.

When a cool looking Bentley racecar running on biofuel beats out competitors in a race, it makes other racecar manufacturers go “hmmm, maybe we need to do that, but better, to win next time.”

When big names like BMW are investing in biofuels like Prometheus Fuels, it makes others take notice and perhaps invest too.

When high-profile Porsche is working on biofuels and eFuels, competitors take notice and ask themselves “how can we become even more sustainable and beat them out?”

And competition for better biofuels and more widespread use of them is a good thing.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.