Horses, from Porsche to Formula 1, and the future of internal combustion

In 1921, there were over 25 million horses in the United States populated by less than 110 million humans. I’m not a mathematician by any means, but I think that puts us at a ratio of about one horse to four-ish the people there. And, just as there are many types of people, there are also many types of horses. There are Quarter Horses, Paintings, Arabs, Appaloosas, and of course, thoroughbred racehorses.

Something strange has happened over the past hundred years, however. There are a lot more people and a lot fewer horses, on the one hand – just 3 million horses for a whopping 330 million Americans – but it’s curious that there are a lot more thoroughbreds in 2021 than ‘there were none in 1921. Moreover, it is almost certain that the meticulously bred horses pass their 21st Century days in luxurious stables serve a very different purpose than their hard-working ancestors.

You see where I’m going, don’t you?


Longtime TTAC readers may remember the Grand National Problem – a 2012 article written by Grand Jack Baruth in which an alien comes to Earth to research how humans move, and is confused by the simple fact that , while the Buick Grand National (GNX) never accounted for 10 percent of Regal’s total production figures, “virtually all working examples of the Baroque Buick sport the blown-six logo and” Darth Vader “paintwork. “

What Jack pointed out then is that these cars, the boring AB devices that keep us coming and going, can be bought in greater numbers than the sportier variants that have emotional value, but they’re not. checked in the way these cars are saved. In Jack’s words, “The Plain-Jane Regals sold more than the Grand National, but no one checked in a regular Regal. A normally aspirated light blue Regal has no value beyond providing pleasant transportation. It is the equivalent of a horse in the 19th century, and when it causes real trouble it is put out of its misery with the same sentimental-free expedition that a farmer would use to pack a loyal but lame old horse into the glue van.

We are in 2021 now. The future of EVs that was just whispered or mocked in 2012 is here, or close enough to be seen on the horizon, at least, and the ubiquitous rumble of a few dozen V6s idling at a fire. red will soon be a fuzzy memory for – well, if not for us, then for our children. But, if we are rich enough, our children may still experience euphonics rriiiiiiiiiiippP of a flat-crank Ferrari and the turbo-tastic flashback of a turbocharged flat-six – and they’ll have Porsche to thank for that, in more than one way.


It is a point of pride for Porsche that the majority of Porsches are still on the road, and Porsche – unlike many automakers – plays an active role in keeping old Porsches in good running condition. The company continues to manufacture parts for them, for example, which is rarer than you might think in the auto industry. It also sponsors Porsche-specific auto clubs and get-togethers, where professional drivers, trainers and Porsche experts take the time to teach Porsche owners how to get the most out of their cars, either by accompanying them on the road. a restoration project or helping them. they shave that last tenth of a second of their lap times. That sort of thing makes ‘Porsche people’, and it turns out to help keep those people as customers.

Porsche wants to continue to keep these cars on the road – or, at least, to be seen as eager to do so – so they’ve teamed up with Bosch on a new product called SynGas, which behaves quite similarly to gasoline. ” conventional “for use in an older car without requiring modifications to the factory fuel system or carburetor / EFI.

Bosch SynGas is produced exclusively with renewable energy, the hydrogen being extracted from the water and combined with the carbon extracted from the ambient air. The CO2 and hydrogen are then combined in a way that allows them to mimic gasoline, diesel or kerosene, creating a kind of “closed loop” of carbon emissions. It’s not a theoretical thing either – a Porsche-funded project built by Siemens Energy is on track to produce 55 million liters of carbon-neutral synthetic fuel by 2024, reaching 550 million liters per year. ‘by 2026.

It’s a really interesting technology, of course – and the SynGas that has been manufactured so far (only a few thousand gallons) has performed as promised, with lower emissions and fuel consumption than gasoline. pretty much at every stage of production / consumption. cycle. So why hasn’t it been touted as the killer technology that will bury the electric vehicle, assert our fragile masculinities, and save the planet at the same time? One word: Cost.

Even by the most optimistic estimates, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume predicts that the SynGas will cost “around $ 10 per liter,” or over $ 40 per gallon, for those of you who prefer the numbers “landed on. the Moon ”to metrics.

“(That’s why) we’re looking for partners,” he says. “They will take care of the technology and, in the end, they will produce the fuel. Our task as car manufacturers will be to find the right specifications for these fuels to work in our combustion engines.

Apparently, Porsche has found a partner who can make good use of a few thousand gallons of fuel – a partner who doesn’t care about the $ 40 / gallon price tag, and is looking for a way to both suck at Porsche. and greenwash its most public operations. This partner is Formula 1.


Formula 1, around 2021, has a problem. The current hybrid engine formula, which uses a turbocharged V6 paired with an energy-generating turbocharger called the MGU-H, has been somewhat of a commercial failure for the sport. It’s expensive, on the one hand, which is a barrier of entry enough to keep most manufacturers away – but the MGU-H has proven to be a difficult thing to master. Mercedes fell into the right setup at the start of 2014 and has dominated the series ever since. Meanwhile, Renault took a beating, losing each of its customer teams while Honda (which had the MGU-H even worse than Renault) was kicked out of the series altogether.

For the fans, it’s worse. Mercedes-Benz AMG’s engine dominance combined with the brilliant drive of the seven-time (so far) driver’s world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton can be seen as boring, but you could say watching Michael Jordan dominate the NBA in the years. 90 was boring, too, if you weren’t a Bulls fan then that’s not the problem. What is the problem is, these hybrid V6s sound “a bit like a puppy farts in a coffee can,” as a friend once told me – and he’s not far off.

Current engines lack the visceral buzz of manic V10s, and that objectively detracts from the show – but the hybrid formula was chosen in the early 2010s as a way to keep F1 technology conceptually relevant for passenger cars and cars. ‘Help manufacturers justify their investments in racing by drawing that connecting line between racing cars and road cars. Ten years later, hybrids aren’t really considered “green” anymore, and the spectacle offered by Formula E and other electric series is – let’s go with “worse” than you might want. That’s why Formula 1 has a new plan for the future: with the MGU-H, and with Porsche and SynGas.

That’s not quite what the official press release says, of course – Formula 1 marketers are far too suspicious for that. What the release actually says is that from 2025 the series will switch to a now “low cost” engine formula intended to attract more manufacturers to the series. This engine will highlight “sustainable technology” and use “100% sustainable“ instant fuel ”, which means it can be used in a standard internal combustion engine without any modifications to the engine itself. [that] will be created in the laboratory, using components from either a carbon capture system, municipal waste or non-food biomass, while achieving savings in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline d at least 65% fossil origin.

Without saying “Porsche SynGas,” they did say Porsche Syngas, and it comes shortly after Porsche and Audi attended an open technical meeting in June to discuss Formula 1 2025 engine rules with heavyweights like the chairman. de Daimler, Ola Kallenius, Renault CEO Luca de Meo, Ferrari chairman John Elkann and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

While Formula 1 essentially promotes and demonstrates its investment in a new, low-emission fuel and lowers its barrier to entry by creating a new potentially “level playing field” for engine manufacturers, only a fool wouldn’t predict that Porsche’s announcement of returning to F1 is imminent… which brings us right back to horses.


No matter how well the line worked in Jack’s article, it’s just a fact that when a thoroughbred champion isn’t ready for the job anymore, he doesn’t go to the factory. glue. Instead, he is studded, ensuring that his winning genes are further refined, further enhanced, and that future horses get faster and faster, for a better and better show. Their – uh, thing sells for millions of dollars (you can trust me, or you can google “cost of champion horse sperm”, like I did), and there is very little connection between these specialized machines and the poor old paintings that transport tourists.

You are the best and the brightest, so I don’t have to explain it to you completely – just remember you saw it coming when the new 2037 Ferrari F90 tilts with an absolutely bonkers internal combustion engine. that spins up to 15,000 rpm and a price that would make even a sultan blush. And if you think I was wrong, I’m sure I’ll hear about it in the comments.

[Images: H_Ko/,  Siemens Energy]

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Kevin A. Perras

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