Audi is stepping up its efforts to produce synthetic diesel from renewable energy. The process could, Audi says, bring combustion-engined cars to near carbon-neutral status.
That could, in turn, mean that buses, coaches and HGVs could continue to operate combustion engines for longer journeys. Other car makers are finding alternative solutions for these vehicles, like hydrogen fuel cells and Tesla’s battery-powered idea, but Audi’s suggestion requires the least change from the current status quo.
The idea is that surplus hydropower is converted into synthetic fuel by means of electrolysis, hydrogen extraction and then combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to global warming. That creates wee beasties called long-chain hydrocarbons that can then be separated into Audi e-diesel and waxes, which can be sold on and/or used in other areas of industry.
Audi is planning a facility in Laufenburg, Germany, to make this happen. Two partner companies are working with it: Ineratec GmbH and Energiedienst Holding AG. The partners hope to be making e-diesel next year, with construction on the plant starting within months if permission is granted by the authorities.
It will eventually be able to produce around 400,000 litres per year; enough to fill a mid-sized car from dry over 7250 times. At 50mpg, that’s a range of over 4.4 million driving miles.
Audi already has a plant in Dresden that is exploring the same principle using different technologies and a different partner, sunfire. It also produces gas – synthetic methane – for the A3, A4 and A5 g-tron.