e-Fuel, Porsche's synthetic petrol is now in production

e-Fuel, Porsche's synthetic petrol is now in production


The transition of fleets to electric has been going on for some time now and there are numerous manufacturers who have chosen to embrace this propulsion system even in advance of the roadmap imposed by the European Union. Before the electric one, the turn of Euro 7 will come, a new homologation cycle defined by all the big brands as too severe and restrictive. Will electricity be the only propulsive solution in the future? Yes, but maybe; hydrogen could "make its comeback", a technology that has been available for some time but has been poorly implemented due to supply difficulties.

Electrification alone is not enough to pursue the goal of decarbonising the automotive sector transport, but it becomes equally important to invest in alternative solutions, such as synthetic fuels, capable of offering a "bridge" proposal on a par with current hybrid engines. Porsche is fully convinced of this and, through the words of the Chief Executive Officer Oliver Blume, highlighted the various paths that the Stuttgart company is following to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality expected for 2030.

The CEO, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Porsche Experience Center at the Franciacorta racetrack, explained how the company is also investing in e-Fuel. Naturally Porsche is not the only house interested in alternative solutions; for example, Toyota, a pioneering electric company, has decided to invest large amounts of money in hydrogen. Porsche's intention is therefore to postpone, for as long as possible, the retirement of internal combustion engines, leading the way for the entire Volkswagen group.

What are e-Fuels?

Known by various names, including electrofuel powerfuel Power-to-X (PtX) , they currently represent the last lifeline for engines endothermic cars and a hypothetical valid alternative to electric cars. They are zero-emission fuels and are produced by storing electricity from renewable sources; are essentially the alternative to biofuel for aviation.

The production of e-Fuel is based on the extraction of hydrogen which occurs through an electrolysis process which breaks down water into its basic elements such as hydrogen and oxygen. For this process and for further stages of production and processing, electricity is required, which however must be generated using renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

In a second stage, with the aid of the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, the Hydrogen is combined with CO2 extracted from the air and converted into a liquid energy carrier: e-Fuel. Once processing and refining have been completed, the e-Fuel produced can be used in various variations (compliant with the current Din En 228 standard) such as e-Petrol, e-Diesel, e-Heating and e-Kerosene and can completely replace conventional fuels. Thanks to their capacity, e-Fuels can also be blended with conventional fuels in any desired ratio and create hybrid solutions. Among the positive aspects of e-Fuels, it should be considered that the current logistics, distribution and storage infrastructure can remain unchanged: no modifications are necessary.

The climate neutrality of e-Fuels derives from the fact that during their production uses electricity from renewable sources and that only the amount of CO2 that was previously absorbed during production is emitted. e-Fuels can therefore make a climate-neutral contribution to all sectors where conventional fuels are currently used (e.g. transport or heating in buildings). Compared to other energy carriers, such as hydrogen, liquid fuels such as petrol, diesel and kerosene have a particularly high energy density. In other words, they can also be stored at room temperature and pressure. These qualities also make the transport of liquid energy carriers technically feasible, a clear advantage over other forms of energy carriers.

With e-Fuels, cars with conventional diesel and petrol engines could already be CO2 neutral today . Also, as mentioned, using the existing network of filling stations, refineries, tank and tanker parks, e-Fuels can be brought to market quickly and thus made readily available to consumers.

Source: efuel-alliance

What is the future?

The field of application and use of e-Fuel ranges from road cars to the motorsport sector, also passing through the cars of the past which, right now, can only circulate in certain periods of the year. According to Blume, it will be possible to run a huge amount of dated Porsches still on the road. Furthermore, unlike the electric one, the cost of synthetic fuels appears more in line with current solutions; today a liter of e-Fuel costs about 10 dollars, in the future with everything fully operational it could drop to 2 dollars and therefore become much more accessible.

One of the greatest benefits of synthetic fuels is their full compatibility with combustion engines; in essence, the engines of the Stuttgart company will not have to undergo an adjustment process but are already compatible at present. A really interesting novelty that allows Porsche to save a considerable amount of time and money dedicated to the redesign of any power units. A concrete example is represented by the new Porche 911 GT3 Cup: a racing car that can also run on synthetic fuels, significantly reducing CO2 emissions even in the race.

A in this regard Concawe , a non-profit scientific organization founded in 1963 and dedicated to the European oil refining industry, has hypothesized some scenarios for the use of future e-Fuel . While on the one hand we hope for large-scale adoption also for the cars we drive every day, Concawe estimates a more likely adoption of e-Fuel in the heavy vehicle sector (transportation and machinery), marine transport and aviation . For the four-wheeler sector, considering the costs and quantities available, it is more probable that adoption will remain relegated to the motorsport sector, as suggested on several occasions.

While previous rumors suggest a probable adoption by of the single - seater of the Formula 1 Championship , further confirmations come from the WEC World Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans . According to reports, TotalEnergies would be working to develop a compatible fuel to be used from next year. Known under the name of “ Excellium Racing 100 ”, TotalEnergies fuel is produced based on bioethanol obtained from wine residues from the French agricultural industry and from ETBE (an organic compound deriving from ethyl and isobutyl alcohols). Since 2018, TotalEnergies has been the partner and official fuel supplier of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (A.C.O.), creator and organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the introduction of the new e-Fuel could allow for an immediate reduction of at least 65% of CO2 emissions in racing cars.

The plant in Chile

In collaboration with Porsche and other brands, Siemens Energy has decided to launch a pilot project for the construction of the first integrated plant in the world for the large-scale production of climate-neutral synthetic fuels. As pre-announced in 2021, on the occasion of the installation of the system, Porsche confirms that it has started production of the first 130 thousand liters of e-Fuel perfectly in line with the schedules; envisaged a subsequent expansion in two phases; the first of 55 million liters by 2024 and, the second, of 550 million liters by 2027 (previously 2026). Liters that, according to the latest rumors, the Zuffenhausen-based company allegedly bought to carry out development tests on its cars.

Chile has set itself ambitious goals as part of its national energy strategy: the target is to produce green hydrogen ( generated from renewable sources) cheapest in the world and transform the country into a major exporter, including synthetic fuels. The project takes advantage of the area's high winds, a perfect element for generating low-cost wind energy.

Recently, the German brand announced a further investment of 75 million dollars in HIF Global LLC, a holding of developers designing synthetic fuel production plants internationally. The German automaker, in return, gets a long-term stake. The company, based in Santiago de Chile, is also working to build the pilot plant that will go into operation in the middle of this year. In addition to Porsche, the funds EIG Global Energy Partners and Baker Hughes, as well as Andes Mining & Energy of Chile and Gemstone Investments also took part in the financing round. The new capital injection will be used to build e-Fuel industrial plants in Chile, the United States and Australia; places, which have a large amount of renewable energy available.

Not only abroad

Even the very Italian Eni is working to develop new sustainable fuels based on hydrogenated vegetable oils , capable of reducing emissions between 60 and 80% in the combustion phases. Eni therefore confirms its intention to make the refining sector less polluting from an environmental point of view. Little information is available at the moment, no details regarding the production have been shared.

First exams

Transport&Environment, an organization based in Brussels that has been promoting the sustainability of the European transport sector, has recently classified e-Fuel as expensive and polluting fuels, placing itself, in fact, in full collision with the car manufacturers that have embraced the e-Fuel alliance. According to the T&E report, the use of synthetic fuels would not produce an improvement in the air quality of urban centres; the tests carried out, in fact, have highlighted emission levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) very similar to those found on cars powered by fossil fuels. In addition, tests have shown that engines powered by virtuoso e-Fuel produce more carbon monoxide and ammonia than their E10 standard petrol counterparts. In particular, comparing the emissions of a petrol-powered car with three different blends of e-Fuel, the amount of carbon monoxide would be three times higher. The data on ammonia emissions is also subdued, an element which, when combined with other compounds present in the air, forms the dangerous PM2.5.

Porsche and future models

Questions about it now are different: will the German manufacturer, already engaged for some time with the electric transition, continue to produce pure endothermics? Will he step back or continue towards neutrality? Porsche, at the moment, can rely on as many as six models (one already fully electric). The Macan and Cayenne SUVs already offer hybrid versions, and the Panamera super sedan is in a completely similar position. Little information for sports cars even if, from previous rumors, we know that the first to undergo a transformation will be the more compact Cayman and only later will it also be the turn of the more famous Carrera 911.

Considering the announced compatibility between E85 petrol and e-Fuel, we believe that Porsche may decide to keep the hybrid Carrera 911 for an extended period (expected for 2024) and delay the mandatory transformation into electric.

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