Porsche is researching synthetic fuels to make gas-powered cars sustainable
The road to sustainable vehicles will likely end with electric cars, but the road to that goal is not clear. There are several ways to get there, and Porsche is looking at synthetic fuels as a potential way. These so-called eFuels are made from CO2 and hydrogen. When made with renewable energy, they can help make internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles more sustainable before the end of their life.
Earlier this week, Detlev von Platen from Porsche AG spoke about this alternative fuel at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility.
If you look at Porsche's current lineup, it's easy to see where the automaker is going: electric sports cars. Currently, in 2020, the automaker has an electric sports sedan and an electric version of its small SUV coming soon. The automaker also has a handful of plug-in hybrids available. The automaker says half of its vehicles will be electric by 2025.
Porsche is producing a cheaper version of its all-electric Taycan
"We're seeing a lot of new regulations all over the world," said Detlev von Platen, Member of the Executive Board for Sales and Marketing, at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020. "California is an example. Europe and China will be." Even more complicated in the future, and we see the transformation happening very quickly. Up until a certain point in time, the development and manufacture of internal combustion engines and cars based on this technology will become even more expensive than a battery vehicle. Things are moving very quickly. "
Governments around the world are using aggressive regulations to drive automakers into an electric future, even though that goal doesn't affect the millions of gasoline-powered vehicles already on the move.
Von Platen explains that Porsche's goal is to achieve the commitments set out in the Paris Climate Agreement early. This means reducing the environmental impact of the entire automotive industry, and Porsche sees eFuels as an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of current and future vehicles with internal combustion. If they were generated with renewable energy, this would result in ICE-powered vehicles running on a fuel from renewable sources.
Porsche is in a unique position: 70% of the vehicles ever produced are still on the road. Their owners are generally enthusiastic and are unlikely to trade their classic air-cooled Porsche coupes for an electric vehicle. The company sees eFuel as an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of these vehicles while keeping them on the road.
This new type of synthetic fuel is made from hydrogen and CO2. Porsche says this fuel shares properties with kerosene, diesel, and gasoline, which in its most basic form are made from crude oil.
"This technology is particularly important as the internal combustion engine will dominate the automotive world for many years to come," said Michael Steiner, member of the executive board for research and development, in a statement released in September. "If you want to run your existing fleet sustainably, eFuels are a fundamental component."
Synthetic fuels have been tried in the past and have gained little traction over the long term. Porsche wants to influence this new generation of synthetic fuel specifications to ensure that the eFuel will work in Porsche's performance engines. "When the E10 came on the market, the mixture had some disadvantages. This time it has to be different: it has to have advantages," said Steiner.
"We started a pilot program to talk about industrializing this fuel technology to make it cheaper as it is still quite expensive compared to fossil fuels," said von Platen. "If this works in the future, we can have something that will increase the speed of creating sustainability alongside battery technology."
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