An incredible season finale at Estoril, one that saw Jonathan Rea and the GBRacing-protected Kawasaki Racing Team win their sixth consecutive World Superbike title, brought to an end both the 2020 World Superbike season and the inaugural year of GBRacing’s FIM Ride Green-inspired ZERO-e project. The world’s first solar-powered paddock living system has surpassed the Barnet firm’s expectations, surviving over 6,975km (4,334 miles) and extremes of weather from heatwaves to hurricanes.
Dubbed ‘ZERO-e’ by GBRacing founder and managing director, Graham Banks, the project was originally designed to provide comfortable paddock living for two support staff over a typical four-day British Superbike event. Sustainable, natural power providing sufficient resource for a mobile office, a fully-functioning kitchen, a television/satellite system, a water heater and a power shower.
The ZERO-e journey started in July 2020 with the long drive from Hertfordshire to Jerez. With strong sunshine for the duration of the trip through France and into Spain, a constant source of energy was guaranteed. The main concern was the Andalusian heatwave that hit Jerez right in time for the race weekend — with temperatures soaring past 45°c, riders suffered and equipment overheated.
Fortunately, the solar panels and fixings were able to withstand the heat even if the crew — operations manager, Stef Cook and marketing and PR consultant, Rob Hoyles — struggled a little with the sweltering temperatures. A total of 12 days powered solely by the sun had proved easily attainable in the strong Spanish sunshine — a fantastic result for the system's first shakedown.
Three British Superbike meetings followed at Donington Park, Snetterton and Silverstone. With typically mixed British weather, the system once again proved reliable with racing sponsorship manager, Stuart Bennett, able to remain self-sufficient for all three events with zero compromise to his standard of living.
But the biggest test had yet to come. Having made the decision to remain in Europe for the final three rounds of the WorldSBK championship to reduce both fuel usage and emissions, the system proved capable of providing a green alternative not only for race support, but also as a viable office for GBRacing’s project manager, Tim Banks, in between race meetings.
The Catalan WorldSBK round started with bright sunshine and fully topped-up batteries but quickly became challenging as the clouds rolled in and storms, created by the weather phenomenon, medicane Ianos, caused flash flooding and disruption to the races. With little in the way of sunshine, cutting back on power usage proved the only way to ensure the batteries weren’t completely depleted and, for the first time, the team of Tim Banks and Rob Hoyles had to use the circuit showers and reduce evening television usage — a small price to pay in the name of refusing to be beaten by the weather!
Magny-Cours also proved difficult, although having kept the truck in the sunny south of France in Antibes for the previous two weeks, Tim Banks arrived at the circuit with a fully charged system and, flying solo for the French round, managed his power usage carefully to get through the rain-sodden event.
Heading south for the final sortie into Portugal, and with Tim Banks having spent the best part of a month living on the road, the days between race meetings spent using the truck as his office, the ZERO-e project had decidedly moved from concept to reality. With Hoyles joining Tim Banks for the final round and for the long drive home, the late autumn sunshine ensured there was no shortage of power for two people and a thoroughly enjoyable end to the season.
While undoubtedly a success, weather extremes had made life difficult. Too hot and the living space became unbearable, too little sun and managing the power usage became quite testing. With lessons learned, a list of upgrades and adjustments have been planned for the winter to improve the overall performance of the ZERO-e system.
GBRacing's founder and managing director, Graham Banks said: "Like everyone, we've had to adapt to an ever-changing set of circumstances this year. With the race schedule being condensed into just a few months, there was no other option than to keep the truck in Europe for the last few rounds and I'm so pleased that all the hard work undertaken throughout last winter has paid off with a system that has worked so well despite it really being a case of trial and error. We really need to thank our technical partners, Visiontrack, MG Energy Systems, Victron Energy, Energy Solutions and Solara for their advice and expertise.
"With a year of learning and research in a working environment, the ZERO-e project has proved that sustainable paddock living can be a reality and could significantly reduce each circuit’s energy usage. We’ve made some calculations based on our average usage (see below) and we’re really encouraged by the numbers.
"As keen supporters of FIM's Ride Green programme, GBRacing would be happy to advise anyone looking to create a similar system for their paddock vehicle. Aside from the environmental benefits, we’ve found it simple to use and really useful travelling between circuits where we can be totally self-sufficient. We’re already very excited about 2021.”
ZERO-e: the season in numbers
Average energy (electricity) usage: 8kWh per day
• Number of operational days in Europe: 51
Total consumption equivalent: 408kWh
Tonnes of coal burned to produce 408kWh is 184kg
Diesel used to produce 408kWh is 163.2 litres
• Number of operational days in the UK: 14
Total consumption equivalent: 112kWh
Tonnes of coal burned to produce 112kWh is 51kg
Diesel used to produce 112kWh is 44.8 litres
• Total solar power usage: 520kWh
• Total coal: 235kg
• Total diesel: 208 litres
Average carbon dioxide emission saving using solar power over 65 days instead of traditional fuel types: 200kg
World Environment Day
FIM Ride Green
FIM & GB Racing