CO2 avoidance through synthetic fuels

The EU is preparing to say goodbye to the combustion engine and is consistently focusing on electromobility. Many car manufacturers are following suit, but there are more and more voices saying: Combustion engines and synthetic fuels are essential.

With the climate protection program "Fit for 55", the European Commission is setting the course for electromobility. From 2035 onwards, new petrol and diesel engines will no longer be allowed to be registered. The Commission's proposal also stipulates that by 2030, CO2 emissions from passenger cars should be reduced by 55 percent compared to 2021 levels.

For the eFuel Alliance founded in 2020, which brings together 135 companies with industry giants such as Neste, Sunfire, Esso, Siemens Energy, Iveco, Mazda, Bosch, Mahle, ElringKlinger, Webasto and ZF Friedrichshafen, the electric car is not the only way on CO2 avoidance: "Combustion engines suffered enormously as a result of the diesel scandal. At the same time, the CO2 fleet regulation is designed in such a way that manufacturers can only meet the ambitious goals with more electromobility," says Ralf Diemer, spokesman for the association.

He therefore fights for openness to technology in decarbonization and promotes e-fuels: Many people would not even know that combustion engines can be operated with them in a climate-neutral manner. One would like to demonstrate that, but "at the moment the legal framework is still missing".

Auto industry on BEV course

An obstacle according to Diemer: While electromobility is subsidized with billions, e-fuels are taxed like fossil fuels. This makes it even more difficult to bring them to market. Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess, on the other hand, a pioneer in electromobility among German car managers, sees good reasons for rejecting synthetic fuels: "If you use wind and sun to generate electricity, 75 percent of it ends up in the car. Convert the energy into hydrogen, it's only a maximum of 25 percent. So you need three times as much wind for fuel cells as for e-cars and twice as much for e-fuels. Very few people will want to afford that."

With the discussion about these alternatives to battery-electric drive, which anyway "will not be available in the coming decade", one only confuses the consumer. Diess: "Rapid CO2 reduction is only possible with electrification."

This is exactly where the e-fuel alliance disagrees. The electricity for the electric cars has to be generated primarily in Germany and Europe, and additional electricity has to be purchased. "If I produce it in Chile, North Africa or Australia, I have four to five times more yield per wind turbine than in our latitudes. But I can only import the electricity from there in the form of liquid or gaseous molecules," Diemer points out. That means: "The efficiency must be seen in an overall view.And e-fuel critics always fail to mention that the battery car first has to be built. The combustion engine and the perfect infrastructure are already there - there are around 300 million vehicles in the EU."

The battery-electric drive is also currently not practicable in ships or airplanes, Diemer continues to argue and makes a simple calculation: "If you If we add 20 or 25 percent synthetic fuel to petrol station fuel by 2030, let's call it E20 or E25, then we'll have a 20 to 25 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from road traffic in one fell swoop. If the right legal framework is created for this now, then that is also realistic."

E-fuels: This is how synthetic fuels are created

Synthetic fuels have been known for a long time, the process for their production has been tested. E-fuels are made with green electricity generated from hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The hydrogen is obtained from water by electrolysis, the greenhouse gas CO2 is taken directly from the air. In a first step, the so-called e-methanol is produced from these two substances. In a further step This e-methanol is processed into e-fuel. Conventional combustion engines in cars, motorcycles, airplanes or ships work with it in a CO2-neutral manner, because the carbon dioxide emitted was previously removed from the atmosphere.

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