In theory yes, as the raw materials water and carbon dioxide (CO2) are available in abundance. The only condition is that there is enough green electricity available. And therein lies the rub.
To start, the water must be split into oxygen and hydrogen using electrolysis. The hydrogen from the electrolysis is then combined with CO2 to create the basic raw material for e-fuel. That is an energy-consuming process.
Subsequently, the efficiency of a combustion engine running on e-fuel is even lower than that of a diesel or petrol engine. For an e-fuel car to travel a certain distance, it requires three to five times as much electrical energy as driving the same distance with an EV. After all, an electric car converts electricity directly into kinetic energy. In that sense, a car running on synthetic fuel fares hopelessly against an electric one.
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You probably already feel it coming: no, not at all. In most European countries, not even enough green energy is generated to supply all households, industry and electric cars.
If we want that, countless wind and solar farms will still have to be constructed. If we also want to run the entire fleet on e-fuels, we will have to import enormous amounts of green energy on top of that.
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In most Western European countries it is far too expensive to build large-scale wind turbine parks and thousands of hectares of solar meadows. This has everything to do with the scarcity of land, nature and labor, but also with the not very favorable climatic conditions.
Especially when it comes to solar energy, it is better to move to North Africa and the Middle East. There you can generate green energy for 1 to 2 cents per kWh. While you are at it, it is better to produce e-fuels locally. You then transport them to Europe by pipeline or megatanker.
In addition, wind farms on the French Atlantic coast or in the North Sea can contribute. The Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe (KIT) has even developed models for offshore wind farms that supply their energy directly to an adjacent e-fuel production facility.
This saves on the construction of electricity cables on the seabed and you are also not bothered by transport losses. But just like the construction of gigantic solar parks in the desert, this is also still a distant prospect. Not least because of the enormous investments required.
Previous posts in our four-part series on e-fuels:
1. Background: What are e-fuels and why are they great?
2. Background: Will your current car soon run on e-fuel?
This post was last modified on November 9, 2023 6:10 am
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