Formula E as a series tries so hard to be green, they even thought about where they source their power. Instead of hooking up to a power grid that may be fueled by coal or other less-than-savory sources of energy, they bring in generators that run off glycerol. You can drink it! But I don’t recommend it.
Aquafuel, who has been the power supplier for Formula E’s cars since the championship started in 2014, uses a modified Cummins generator to power the Formula E cars. Originally, it’s good for generating 1.2 megawatts, but due to the lower caloric value of glycerol, it only produces about 850 kilowatts in its current eco-friendly form. Regardless, that’s still a ton of energy. Big cables lead from the generator pit over to each garage, where the cars charge up their batteries and later put that power to use on track.
Additionally, Aquafuel’s representative says the glycerol is responsibly sourced as a byproduct of biodiesel production. While it isn’t technically food grade, that is more for reasons handling than anything else. There are warnings with the giant glycerol tubs that are shipped in that advise that you can drown in the sweet stuff, for example.
When Damon Lavrinc tasted Formula E’s glycerol fuel a couple years ago, his rousing review of “I drank some and wasn’t bent over a toilet afterwards” sounded fine enough. Yeah, buddy. Get me some of that.
Let me tell you right now that no, it wasn’t a good taste. It was syrupy in texture and had a sweet tinge to it, but also had kind of a weirdly acrid note that wasn’t good.
Formula E made cocktails with food-grade glycerol once. I, too, might recommend diluting the glycerol with something else that doesn’t taste like straight glycerol. (For what it’s worth, I can’t do fake sweeteners, either. “Diet” or “Zero” anything is right out. Yuck.)
Even if the generator fuel is technically edible, I don’t recommend drinking it. You really shouldn’t drink glycerol that’s been in the generator already, either.
Aquafuel still has to use about 100 liters of diesel per race weekend (which encompasses Wednesday through Saturday for Formula E) in its generators, as they won’t start and stop on glycerol alone. To start, the generator runs for about 10 minutes on diesel before switching to glycerol. Around 8:00 p.m. on every day, they run diesel through the system for the last five minutes before shutting them off, largely to clean the injectors. Of course, because diesel is the biggest no-no in automotive anything right now, they’re currently researching ways to run it entirely on glycerol alone.
It’s been about an hour, and I still have that taste in my mouth. It’s still gross. Trust me on this: do not drink generator fuel.