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At $10 a litre, E-Petrol just saved ICE cars in the EU. What are E-Fuels and how are they made?

The EU’s proposal to completely ban ICE cars by 2035 was changed at the last minute, to allow carmakers to continue selling ICE cars beyond 2035, as long as they sell E -Fuels. This amendment was brought about mainly thanks to the lobbying efforts of Germany, Italy, Poland and a few other countries.

The stipulation is that cars with regular gasoline and diesel engines will be banned from sale after 2035. However, the ICE may live on, if they are designed to run on electric fuels or carbon-free fuels.

At $40 per gallon or around $10.66 per liter, today’s E-Fuel, or synthetic gasoline, is a very expensive proposition, nearly 10 times the cost of regular gasoline. However, this is what saved ICE for years to come.

Here’s everything you need to know about synthetic gasoline or E-Fuels

What are E-FUELS and how are they made?
E-fuels, also known as synthetic fuels, electrofuels or power-to-liquid fuels, are made by combining carbon dioxide and hydrogen from renewable sources such as water and gas. ‘wind power. The process involves several steps.

First, there is electrolysis, in which water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

Then there is carbon capture. Carbon dioxide is captured from industrial processes or directly from the air.

Then there is the synthesis process. Hydrogen and carbon dioxide are combined using a chemical reaction to create a liquid fuel. The exact process can vary depending on the fuel desired, but generally involves the use of a catalyst to convert gases into liquid form.

The resulting E-Fuels can be used to replace conventional fossil fuels in existing engines and infrastructure, making them a promising solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. However, the process of creating EFuels is energy intensive and currently more expensive than conventional fuels, so further research and development is needed to make it a viable commercial alternative.

The objective, however, is that the amount of CO2 emitted during use is offset by the amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere during the fuel production process, making the overall impact of electric fuels CO2 neutral. .

Electric fuels produce CO2 when burned in an internal combustion engine, but the concept is that these emissions are equal to the CO2 removed from the atmosphere to make the electric fuel.

Production needs to ramp up
Most major automakers are investing in battery electric vehicles as the primary means of reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars, a technology already widely available. However, suppliers, oil majors and several automakers are advocating for E-Fuels because they don’t want their vehicles weighed down by heavy batteries.

Electric fuels are not yet produced on a large scale. The first commercial plant, backed by Porsche and aiming to produce 550 million liters per year, opened in Chile in 2021. Norsk E-Fuel in Norway is another plant scheduled to start production in 2024, with a focus on aviation fuel.

Arguments in favor of E-fuels
Proponents of E-Fuels claim they offer a way to reduce CO2 emissions from existing internal combustion engine vehicles without the need to replace each vehicle with an electric vehicle.

They also argue that E-Fuels can be used in existing ICE vehicles and transported through existing fossil fuel logistics networks, which is good news for ICE component manufacturers and companies that transport gasoline and diesel. diesel.

Some car manufacturers and suppliers also claim that E-Fuels are a more practical solution for certain applications, such as heavy transport, where battery electric vehicles may not be feasible due to their weight and range limitations.

Finally, E-Fuels can help support the growth of renewables by providing a market for excess renewable electricity that would otherwise be wasted.

Some policymakers, however, argue that e-fuels should be reserved for hard-to-decarbonise sectors like shipping and aviation, which cannot easily run on electric batteries, unlike passenger cars.

Arguments Against E-Fuels
Reviewers note that the production of E-Fuels is very expensive. According to a 2021 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, using E-Fuels in an ICE car requires about five times more renewable electricity than using a battery electric vehicle.

A major argument against E-Fuels is that their production requires significant amounts of energy, usually from renewable sources, which could be used directly to power electric vehicles or other more efficient uses. This means that electric fuels may not be the most efficient or cost-effective way to decarbonize transport, especially if the electricity used to produce them can be used directly in battery electric vehicles.

There are also concerns that e-fuels could distract from more immediate and effective solutions to decarbonize transport, such as increasing the deployment of battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, investing in public transport and active travel, and reducing the need for transport through urban planning and teleworking.

What car manufacturers want
Major auto component suppliers in Germany, such as Bosch, ZF and Mahle, are members of the E-Fuel Alliance, an industry lobby group, alongside oil and gas majors like ExxonMobil and Repsol.

Car manufacturers like Piech, Porsche and Mazda generally support E-Fuel technology. Porsche has a stake in electric fuel producer HIF Global.

BMW has invested $12.5 million in start-up Prometheus Fuels, while investing billions in battery-electric technology.

Other automakers, such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, are banking on battery electric vehicles to decarbonize. Volvo and Ford recently urged EU countries not to reverse the phasing out of new petrol and diesel cars in 2035.

When will electric fuels be available?
While Porsche has begun industrial production of synthetic fuels in Chile through its shareholder, Highly Innovative Fuels, mass industrial production of E-Fuel is not expected to begin until 2025. Porsche has committed to both in electric mobility and electric fuels as complementary technologies.

On the other hand, Ford and Volvo have signed a letter stating that EU companies need legislative clarity to support their long-term plans to transition to electric vehicles. They argue that allowing petrol and diesel cars to be sold after 2035, even if powered by electric fuels, would have negative consequences for the environment and air quality.

Once they become mainstream, prices for E-Fuels will drop significantly from $10+ per liter at costs to current levels

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