Are rumours of the demise of the internal combustion engine premature?
- Mar 2, 2021 1:48 pm GMT
Synthetic fuels are compatible with existing internal combustion engines and could be produced via carbon-neutral processes to offset the carbon dioxide generated when the synthetic fuels are burnt.
Porsche is teaming up with Siemens, Enel, AME, and ENAP to develop and build a pilot factory. The plant will initially produce 130,000 litres of synthetic fuel; however, this figure will grow over time and upon acceptance as a viable alternative.
Synthetic fuels are also being talked about as an alternative for aircraft, ships, heavy goods and construction vehicles, where batteries, which lack the energy density of conventional fuel, are not currently viable. Porsche’s synthetic fuels will initially only be used in motorsports, at Porsche Experience Centres and in a limited number of their own production cars.
How are synthetic fuels created? While conventional fuels are derived from oil, synthetic fuels will get their hydrogen from water and carbon from the air, these combine to mimic the structure of petrol, diesel and other oil-derived fuels.
The energy used to create synthetic fuels can be renewable, and while burning them generates carbon dioxide (CO2), capturing carbon from the atmosphere during the synthesis process can offset this. Synthetic fuels could also be a convenient method for storing energy generated by renewable sources at periods of low demand.
How do synthetics measure up to electric / battery powered alternatives? Both really rely on the upstream processes to achieve their “green credentials” provided sufficient carbon is captured from the atmosphere to off-set the (lower) emissions from using the synthetic fuels, then the advantage they have over battery alternatives is that there is no need for, non-renewable, rare/exotic minerals (with their inherent disposal issues) AND existing vehicles will not require to be replaced and scrapped.
As much as I love technology, there is no way that the sound of an electric car could ever evoke the emotions felt hearing a throaty V8 roar past you; so I will be hoping that Porsche are successful in their endeavour to bring Synthetic fuels onto a forecourt near me soon.
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