E-fuels: How Could They Help Save The Internal Combustion Engine?

11 April 23

On October 27, 2022, the EU mandated a complete ban on sales of new vehicles with an internal combustion engine (ICE) by 2035. With the deadline quickly approaching and a strong push back by Germany and automobile manufacturers around the globe it seems that there might be a future for ICE powered vehicles.

Some of the issues that the EU and the rest of the world are facing mainly has to do with the insufficient charging infrastructure, as well as limited resources for battery production.

On March 25, the EU reached an agreement with Germany to revise the ban on sales of new ICE powered vehicles. The EU permits the sales and registration of ICE vehicles after 2035 with the condition that those vehicles would run on carbon-neutral fuels.

What is carbon-neutral fuels, more generally referred to as synthetic e-fuels? The most rudimentary description for synthetic e-fuels is a man-made fuel designed to mimic naturally occurring fuels such as oil and gas with an added benefit of being carbon-neutral.

You may ask are there no CO2 emissions when burning synthetic e-fuels? Well not exactly, but if we were to delve deeper into the production of e-fuels it is ingenious.

The idea behind e-fuel production is to generate hydrogen using renewable energy sources. Then hydrogen and carbon dioxide which is harvested from our atmosphere or produced by industrial plants is combined into synthetic methanol.

The burning of e-fuel would emit comparable amounts of CO2 to burning traditional fuels (synthetic fuel would produce far fewer particulates), but the emissions of CO2 would be completely offset by the production, making it carbon-neutral.

Synthetic methanol could be used in cars with engines designed to run on methanol or processed into a synthetic equivalent of traditional petrol and diesel.

Car manufacturers like Porsche and BMW have already started investing in e-fuel R&D. Porsche has invested around $100 million to create synthetic fuels at a new facility in Chile, which is already operational.

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