Proponents and opponents of e-fuels are conducting vigorous debates worldwide. The pros see synthetic fuels as a huge opportunity, while the cons see it as an extremely expensive form of energy waste. Is there hope?
For example, the German Institute for Climate Research in Potsdam is of the opinion that the production of green hydrogen and e-fuels only makes sense if it is used for non- or hardly electrifiable means of transport such as large aircraft and ships. It is a view shared by many scientists worldwide. Because energy-intensive industry, aviation and shipping alone require many billions of tons of e-fuels.
Then, according to the critics, there will be nothing left for ordinary cars. And so battery electric cars would be a better alternative. On the other hand, an EV carries hundreds of kilos of batteries. Cars running on synthetic fuel do not suffer from this. In this sense, liquid e-fuels have a greater energy density.
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However, the main argument of e-fuel advocates is that we should not miss any opportunity to combat global warming. And according to them, this includes optimal use of natural, 'green' energy sources such as sun, wind and tides.
The difficult thing is that in the Sahara you already need an area the size of roughly the province of Utrecht to satisfy Europe's daily energy hunger. Without large production installations for synthetic fuels. Hard facts that only increase the skepticism of opponents.
So far, electricity-generated e-fuels are only produced for research purposes. In 2019, the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe started the Copernicus project, co-funded by the German government. 3,500 tons of CO2-neutral kerosene and diesel are now produced annually. For the time being only for scientific purposes.
Porsche is an important e-fuel pioneer within the automotive industry. The manufacturer started producing synthetic fuel in Chile at the beginning of 2023. Wind energy is used, which is always plentiful in this southern part of the Andes.
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Nevertheless, the ecofuel (without duties and taxes) currently costs 1.87 euros per liter. With larger-scale production and distribution, the price could still drop significantly, but for the time being 'bare' e-fuel is approximately twice as expensive as petrol.
It is not surprising that Porsche, in particular, invests a lot of money and energy in e-fuels. Because you can't make an icon like the 911 completely electric without batting an eyelid without antagonizing the worldwide fan base.
The American state of Texas also has enormous solar and wind farms, the energy yield of which is intended for the production of e-fuels. One of the largest production installations will eventually have to produce 14,000 barrels of e-fuel per day, which amounts to an annual production of 757 million liters.
Within Europe, it is so far only Norway that is seriously working on e-fuels. The first three production installations at Norske e-fuel will come into operation in 2030. They must produce 250 million liters annually. Sounds like a lot, but in the entire European energy market it is a drop in the ocean.
On the other hand, it's a start. And if production is scaled up considerably in the long term, prices can be lowered. After all, we are not dealing with an increasingly scarce raw material. We do need energy for production - an extremely large amount of energy. Thanks to sun and wind, it is available in unlimited quantities, but extraction is still a matter...
Previous posts in our four-part series on e-fuels:
1. What are e-fuels and why are they great?
2. Will your current car soon run on e-fuel?
3. Can enough e-fuel be produced?
This post was last modified on November 16, 2023 6:17 am
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