Highfield and Brookham pupil fuels racing driver dad's green dream

Posted on 10th Apr 2024 in School News

A pointed conversation about the environment has led to a man who restores and races vintage cars to have a radical rethink on green fuel.

William Medcalf, founder of Vintage Bentley in Hill Brow, near Liss, was chatting casually to his daughter Charlotte on the way to school about his passion for old cars when the six-year-old told him that his business and the cars he races were “bad for the environment”.

Charlotte, a pre-prep pupil at Highfield and Brookham, explained to her dad that as part of her year group’s spring term theme of transport the children had been looking at ways in which all forms of travel had changed and evolved over the years, including fuel.

The conversation gave Mr Medcalf food for thought as he sought an alternative to traditional fuels, and his research led him to a German company which specialises in fossil-free synthetic fuel which drastically cuts carbon dioxide emissions, a big driver in climate change. Current production processes show a critical 77% drop compared to fossil fuels.

Synthetic fuels – or e-fuels – are produced by extracting carbon dioxide and water from the environment, or from other sources such as farming waste. The water is split by electrolysis, making hydrogen, which is synthesised with the carbon.

Having run numerous tests under laboratory conditions, Mr Medcalf took to the track to see how the synthetic fuel compared to petrol-guzzling cars, and the results were an unmitigated success as he raced to back-to-back victories at Goodwood and Castle Coombe. And he hasn’t returned to fossil fuels since.

Now he plans to race his Bentley at the Goodwood Revival meeting in September, with the prestigious track in West Sussex showing its green credentials by only allowing cars running on synthetic fuels to race.

In light of this, and with his daughter’s words ringing in his ears, Mr Medcalf is taking a closer look at the environmental impact of his business as a whole, for example tracking carbon consumption and calculating amounts for offsetting and capture while also reducing the amount of carbon the company produces.

With the likes of Charlotte and her classmates and teachers at Highfield and Brookham driving change, the future of our planet looks brighter, a great deal brighter indeed.