Although we seem to be hurtling towards a future of electric cars, the humble internal combustion might not die off entirely. Manufacturers are becoming increasingly serious about the possibilities of synthetic fuels or e-fuels, while Toyota has recently been trialling a GR Yaris engine powered by hydrogen.
There’s also a third avenue you might not have thought of: volcanoes. Well, sort of. There’s a company in Iceland called Carbon Recycling International which makes a fuel called Vulcanol, something which has piqued the interest of Koenigsegg.
As company founder Christian von Koenigsegg explained when speaking to Bloomberg:
“So there is this technology from Iceland, it was invented there, where they cap the CO2 emittance from semi-active volcanoes and convert that into methanol. And if you take that methanol and you power the plants that do the conversion of other fuels and then power the ship that transports the those fuels to Europe or the U.S. or Asia, wherever it goes, you put the fuel completely CO2-neutral into the vehicle.”
He’s oversimplifying things a little, presumably to avoid spending the whole interview talking about it. How the technology actually works revolves around the geothermal vents that are in abundance around areas of volcanic activity, like Iceland.
The Svartsengi Power Station is one of six geothermal power plants in the country that harness this power using steam turbines. It’s arguably the most famous since it supplies water to the nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Carbon Recycling International’s facility is sat next door, siphoning off CO2 and mixing it with hydrogen to make methanol. It’s much easier to do this using the outlet of a geothermal plant, since you get a more concentrated dose of CO2. Neatly, the company makes its hydrogen by splitting water using electricity generated by its power plant neighbours.
Methanol has been produced at this site for some time now and has even made it to the UK to be blended with unleaded petrol. Methanol, both in blended in pure forms, also has a history of motorsport use.
Koenigsegg isn’t the only carmaker to have taken an interest in Carbon Recycling - Volvo owner Geely has invested in the firm, and announced earlier this month that it wants the collaboration to continue. As for Koenigsegg, it isn’t the only alternative fuel it’s mulling over, with Christian referring to the “many, many other technologies that are coming up”.
The Swedish outfit has spoken about electric cars before, but for now, Christian seems to think they’re too damn heavy, even if it’s possible to replicate the straight-line performance of a Koenigsegg in something much less expensive. “You have to also realise they’re (ICE supercars) 500 or 600 kilograms lighter,” he said, adding, “So when you turn and when you break and when you drive around a race track, you still get a huge performance difference.”
They’re not anything like as green, of course, but hey - one day an Icelandic Volcano might change that.