An organisation representing the fuel refining industry in Europe has issued a plea to politicians and car makers to take synthetic fuels seriously, stating that the CO2 reductions it could bring by 2035 are the equivalent of replacing 50 million ICE cars with BEVs.
In theory, the plan unveiled by FuelsEurope also means new car prices could be kept lower because less new tech would need to be developed. Battery-powered cars have earned a reputation for being seriously expensive to buy, which is a major obstacle to mass adoption. As long as they stay so costly there’s a need for alternatives, argues FuelsEurope.
Conveniently for FuelsEurope and its 40 constituent companies, synthetic fuels are quite a lot more expensive than those from fossil fuels. With their coffers having taken a kicking during the coronavirus pandemic, the group may be trying to accelerate the introduction of a more profitable alternative under the guise of environmental benefit.
The eventual aim, says its director general and spokesman John Cooper, is to break into the maritime and aviation industries with this fuel, but that the automotive industry is the one that gives them the best chance of bringing the cost of the technology down before it’s ready for industrial scale application. In other words, motorists are a known cash cow because we often have no choice but to pay what’s on the board. Happy days.
Low-carbon liquid fuels (LCLFs), to use their proper name, are made from chemicals that don’t produce any CO2 or other known greenhouse gases. At the moment they’re blended with fossil fuels and can’t be used on their own, requiring some modifications to engine technology before they can be used neat.
Mazda, McLaren and engine management experts Bosch are all looking at LCLFs seriously, even if no meaningful progress seems to have been made yet. Others, like Mercedes, say it’s a non-starter because the amount of energy it takes to create the fuel dissolves a vast portion of the overall efficiency of the energy cycle. For any given quantity of raw environmental energy, they say, you could power cars a lot further with batteries than with synthetic fuels.
In a statement released with the backing of all Europe’s major fuel suppliers, Cooper said:
“Today we are setting out an ambitious pathway for enabling transport to contribute to EU’s climate neutrality ambition by 2050, based on scale up of low-carbon-liquid fuels supply and use, across several transport sectors.
“With a clear societal and scientific case for far-reaching climate action, and taking into account the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus crisis, we respect that there will be no return to business as usual for the fuels industries.
“With the focus increasingly turning to recovery and new investments, we believe now is the time to start policy discussions with EU and national policy-makers and customer stakeholders to design the enabling policy framework for the deployment of these essential low-carbon fuels.”