The dilemma of synthetic fuels is growing

While some German politicians are calling for a “post 2035” repeal for combustion engines powered by synthetic fuels, a study by the NGO Transport & Environment points to the very low impact of these fuels on CO2 reduction.

Synthetic fuels, we’ve been talking about it for years. But right now, no project is seeing the light of day on a large scale apart from isolated initiatives like Porsche’s. And for good reason: these fuels have a big problem, they require a lot of electricity to produce. Energy that could be used directly elsewhere, and in particular on storage units such as batteries. So you’ll probably see where we come from. For a few months now, two camps have been opposing each other. On the one hand, the supporters of electricity that today could be described as “traditional”, with a motor powered by a rechargeable battery. A solution that obviously has its advantages and disadvantages. And on the other, a strip of the automotive industry and enthusiasts who want to keep watching combustion engines with moving mechanical parts, combustion of synthetic fuel. This would have the advantage of significantly reducing CO2 emissions compared to an oil fuel, due to its electrolysis production.

Synthetic fuels, batteries or … both?

The study by the NGO T&E is quite clear about the supposed carbon benefit of synthetic fuels: “Even a car running on pure electronic fuel produced with renewable electricity would emit more during its life cycle than the electric car, according to the analysis. An electric vehicle would be 53% cleaner than an internal combustion engine with synthetic fuels, which is mainly due to electronic fuel production losses and inefficient internal combustion engine. According to the fuel industry’s own research, the amount of electric fuel would be enough to cover only 3% of Europe’s fuel needs by 2035. “

By using synthetic fuels produced from non-renewable electricity, the results are even worse, as the increase in CO2 throughout the production cycle and use of the vehicle would only be 5% compared to a heat engine conventional.

So what to do? Some German political parties are already protesting against the EU’s decision to ban combustion engines from 2035. It is true that on the scale of an industry with substantial inertia, 2035 is tomorrow. The German FDP party, for example, sees synthetic fuels as ” a viable alternative, especially for areas that do not have enough green electricity to run them and without enough income to buy new electric cars “They are asking for combustion engines to be sold from 2035 onwards if they can be shown to run on synthetic fuels. But how to prove it? That is one of the many questions on this thorny issue.

Published on 23/06/2022 Updated 23/06/2022

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