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The future of e-fuels in doubt…again

1 year ago

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Andrew English | Journalist


24 March 2023

It’s not been the most illuminating few weeks for those seeking to understand the faltering progress of e-fuels as a potential saviour of (some) internal combustion engines after 2035 when an effective European ban comes into force – in the UK that ban comes in 2030 with a five-year stay of execution for plug-in hybrid cars.

For a start there was a Porsche press trip to Chile to witness the pilot plant in the south of the country, where sentinel-like turbines churn in the near-constant winds and provide the electric power to synthesise liquid fuel from methanol derived from captured atmospheric CO2 and hydrogen. Porsche has a 12.5 per cent stake in HIF Global, the e-fuels maker (other partners include Siemens Energy and ExxonMobil), which operates the Haru Oni pilot plant in Punta Arenas, Chile.

We covered this story extensively on The Intercooler at the end of last year, concluding it was an interesting but inefficient and expensive way of keeping combustion-engined cars on the road. One study, Potential and risks of hydrogen-based e-fuels in climate change mitigation, published in 2021, suggests that while they are versatile, e-fuels have fragile climate effectiveness, high costs and uncertain availability. ‘E-fuel mitigation costs are €800–1200 per tCO2,’ it says, ‘and while mass deployment could reduce those costs to €20–270 per tCO2, e-fuels seem unlikely to become widely available until 2050.’ Further, the report suggested that if they failed to live up to their initial promise, the widespread use of e-fuels could fix society on a path of fossil-fuel dependency.

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