On the road to net zero emission vehicles, Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) have, for some, been joined in the race by e-fuels, sometimes referred to as synthetic fuels.

The appeal is that it is suggested e-fuels can act as a straightforward replacement for diesel or petrol, and some serious players are looking at its potential, including Porsche, Bosch and Aramoco. The process has gained support from the German government as it looks to protect its car industry.

What are e-fuels?

The E-fuel manufacturing process relies on splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide to produce hydrocarbons, the principal constituent of petrol.

The chemical process relies upon electricity, including renewable solar and wind-derived electricity.

The challenges facing e-fuels

According to Europe’s leading clean transport campaign group,  Europe’s leading clean transport campaign group, e-fuel could cost more than €2.80 per litre at the pump in Germany in 2030 – 50% more expensive than normal petrol today. The high cost is due to the complex and energy-intensive production process.

E-fuels may find a home in high-performance cars, but their most likely home is in aviation and shipping, where electricity is unsuitable.

It is too early to write off e-fuels, and it is certainly possible that a zero-emission future will see multiple solutions. Still, as a practical application for daily driving on a broad scale, e-fuels are not something we can expect to see anytime soon.

Chris Rowthorn, Director of Motor Sales Operations

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