Porsche has announced its intention to invest in the research and development of eFuels for petrol engines. The manufacturer reckons synthetic fuels are potentially vital to making the world’s non-electric cars sustainable, while also creating a new supply chain that would benefit the industry as a whole. It also promises that unlike the introduction of E10 blend petrol, which are generally incompatible with high perfromance engines, a new generation of eFuels should come “with advantages”, making its introduction a win-win scenario - assuming various production issues can be overcome.
Porsche isn’t the first car maker to express its interest in this stuff; you may remember our interview about the prospect of Volcanol-powered supercars with Jens Sverdrup, the chief commercial officer at Czinger, back in April. But it’s the first big player from the world of performance cars to highlight eFuel’s potential, not to mention the first (that we know of) to actively seek to forward the technologies development with a view to widespread commercialisation.
Synthetic fuels have plenty of promise, and not just because of their eco-friendliness. Their basic properties are the same as fossil fuels, meaning they work in existing petrol engines. And because they can be created from CO2 and hydrogen using renewable energy, they can be climate neutral. Consequently, you can have a proper engine with a proper sound, power and even smells, while essentially not ‘adding’ any climate-changing emissions to the atmosphere. They can even be climate negative, like Volcanol’s geothermal-produced eFuels.
Unsurprisingly, Porsche R&D boss Michael Steiner reckons it will likely be more important to the automotive world’s near future than fuel cell tech, at least in its current state of development. He’s “convinced” that petrol engines will continue alongside electrified technologies “in the medium term”. Not just because they will continue to be produced for several more years, but also because existing cars will persist for “a long time”. You need only look to High Mile Club for evidence of that.
Steiner did admit that charging a pure electric car with regenerative energy is a more efficient use of energy than extracting CO2 and hydrogen, and then running it through the complex process of producing a synthetic fuel. But he also believes that the “regenerative energy that is available in surplus worldwide” can prioritise “sustainability over efficiency”, for the greater good of the planet, its atmosphere and, yes, the longevity of the internal combustion engine. Porsche says it doesn't want 'to define (eFuels) down to the smallest detail' but that it wants 'help shape the chain'. Fingers crossed, eh?
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