Do you know paragraph 1, paragraph 2 of the road traffic regulations in Germany? It reads as follows: “Anyone who takes part in traffic has to behave in such a way that no one else is harmed, endangered or more than unavoidable under the circumstances, hindered or annoyed.”
So far, this has mainly been the case with other road users. In the future, this will also apply to the climate. After all, whoever harms or endangers the climate also hinders and annoys humanity. For us drivers this means: We need other, more environmentally friendly forms of driving. Sure, electric cars are an alternative. But what about the 46.5 million combustion engines? They will be on German roads for many years to come. Will they run on eFuels? e-gasoline, e-diesel, e-heating oil and e-kerosene?
So further approaches are needed. One solution could be eFuels. This means that every petrol or diesel will run climate-neutral from now on, as long as the synthetic fuel has been produced sustainably.
Read below on how it works, what it costs – and how cars run on eFuels.
What are eFuels?
► Alternatives to fossil fuels are needed for CO 2 -neutral drives. eFuels are a clean option
The name sounds modern and innovative: eFuels. That stands for “Electrofuels” – and should be a bit confusing. Because eFuels are filled up like normal fuel at the pump and not at the socket.
But: Electricity is used in production. And that is green electricity from solar and wind energy. It is used to produce hydrogen and ultimately eFuels in a multi-stage process.
Why the effort? Quite simply: The climate-neutral, liquid fuel can make an important contribution to achieving climate protection goals. Because any combustion engine can be operated with green fuel.
The synthetic fuel is available as e-gasoline, e-diesel, e-heating oil and e-kerosene. In addition, the existing infrastructure of filling stations, storage facilities and ships can still be used.
★ Critics of eFuels say the green fuel is too inefficient. The same amount of electricity used is enough for eFuels for 100 kilometers, for battery electric cars for 700 kilometers. According to car professor Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, the efficiency of eFuels is around 15 percent. That of e-cars is around 80 percent .
★ The proponents of eFuels counter that efficiency is not that crucial – since the solar and wind energy used is generated anyway. Because eFuels should be produced where there is enough wind and sun. For example in Africa.
n addition, eFuels have other advantages: They have a much higher energy density than car batteries or hydrogen stored in gaseous form. That makes them very similar to fossil fuels.
▶ ︎ What does that mean? eFuels can be transported inexpensively over long distances, for example by tankers. And store them well – which is difficult with electricity.
What is the current state of eFuels?
Siemens and Porsche are building a factory for eFuels in Chile. German cars will be using it from 2022. A slightly yellowish liquid gurgles from large canisters into the Mini’s tank. Not a big thing for the little three-door car, because its “feed” hardly differs from super petrol.
It smells exactly like that and sloshes around with the same viscosity. From a purely chemical point of view, there is no difference between the two. Because the canister product called eFuel was brewed in the laboratory in such a way that it corresponds to mineral oil fuel.
Our three-door doesn’t really care, the main thing is that the stuff ignites properly. And that’s exactly what it’s about: How do you drive with eFuel, are there differences between natural and laboratory products? Clear no!
The Mini Cooper behaves no differently with eFuel than it would otherwise with super-supply. With its typical chatter, the three-cylinder comes to life and does what everyone expects.
The 136 hp accelerate it sufficiently quickly to country road speed . The gears are turned evenly, the 1.5-liter barely slacks off. Unfortunately, the motorway was not part of the test track, but we do not doubt that everything would run normally here too.
The question remains: can the engine handle the new fuel? Such concerns are unfounded. eFuel is made up of the same elements as Super, and can be “constructed” even more purely. All burners should be able to tolerate it.
Says Prof. Dr. Thomas Koch, Head of the Institute for Piston Machines at KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology): “Negative influences on the drive train have not yet been diagnosed and are not expected. Rather, even smaller product advantages are possible with eFuels. ”So: bring on the synthetic super!
Mineral oil companies could add eFuels
Any amount of synthetic fuel can be mixed with normal gasoline or diesel. And that “without having to make adjustments to the vehicle,” says Udo Weber. The Uniti chairman (Federal Association of Medium-Sized Mineral Oil Companies) is currently building a tank farm for eFuels in Fulda.
From 2022 he wants to add some of this to conventional diesel. A combustion engine could also run 100 percent on eFuel. But that is still too expensive. The ten percent admixture only adds a few cents to the liter.
The oil industry is not quite as convinced of the use of eFuel in cars as Weber. Shell, for example, is already researching synthetic fuels in two laboratories, in Hamburg and Amsterdam.
However, the oil multinational mainly believes in a use in aviation. On the other hand, Shell is currently building one thing in particular at the car filling stations: fast chargers for e-cars.
BP sees it similarly, where it says about CO 2 minimization: “In addition to electromobility, synthetic alternatives will also play a role in the future. Aviation in particular offers great potential for using synthetic fuels because there are no alternative drives. “
At the beginning of September, it became clear where the journey is headed when it comes to hydrogen (which is also used to produce eFuels). The federal government announced that Germany would get an innovation center for hydrogen technology (ITZ) – with locations in Chemnitz, Duisburg and Pfeffenhausen (Bavaria). There will also be a consortium in northern Germany. 290 million euros are available for this by the end of 2024.
What do eFuels cost?
So far, eFuel has been produced in small pilot plants and is still a long way from being able to be supplied across the board. Production under laboratory conditions initially results in a liter price of around EUR 4.50 – which of course is not competitive with fossil fuels.
How else could it be? The world is designed for the extraction, processing and consumption of fossil raw materials. Around 14 billion liters of crude oil were produced last year – every day!
It is estimated that around half of this will produce fuel. If eFuel is also produced on a large scale and the production of preliminary products is optimized, the prices of green gasoline are likely to fall as well.
Estimates assume that in the optimal case, the price per liter will have dropped to 1.60 euros in 2026. And a liter could cost around one euro as early as 2030. That would make it competitive with fossil fuels. And until then, eFuels can at least be mixed with fossil fuel.
The eco-kerosene for the airlines
In times of climate change there is a new term: flight shame. No wonder that the aviation industry wants to switch to eco-kerosene as soon as possible. Just like combustion cars, airplanes can also use sustainable fuel.
Lufthansa is a pioneer and already burns 10,000 tons of it per year. In theory, that’s enough for 100 flights from Europe to America – sounds like a lot, but Lufthansa does it every day!
Just a few days ago, airline boss Carsten Spohr therefore called for a significant increase in the production of eco-fuel. In October the world aviation association IATA wants to present a corresponding initiative in Boston.
By 2030, the aviation industry wants and must obtain two percent of the fuel it uses from sustainable resources. That means: 200,000 tons of eco-kerosene will then be required annually.
Benefits of eFuels
The great advantage for consumers is that e-fuels can be used technically in all sectors: pipelines, tank farms, heating oil tanks, filling stations and the entire vehicle fleet can continue to be used.
In addition, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by up to 95 percent with e-fuels. The study suggests producing the renewable liquid energy sources especially in sunny and windy areas. Several associations of the mineral oil industry have jointly commissioned the study.
5 good reasons for adopting eFuels faster
- Electric cars need a completely new infrastructure – such as the supply chain, charging stations and even workshop equipment – e-fuels can be transported without further modifications and used in normal gasoline or diesel vehicles. They are therefore an ideal addition to e-mobility.
- E-fuels are future fuels and are not only interesting for mobility, but can also be used in other areas in a climate-friendly way – for example, when it comes to heating your house or apartment in a CO2-neutral manner and supplying it with warm water.
- With e-fuels you can continue to use your combustion engine
- As part of the European Renewable Energy Sources Directive from Europe, 14 percent of the energy consumed in road and rail traffic should consist of renewable energy by 2030. (read more here)
- One hundred percent e-fuels are currently not available for private individuals, but many filling stations will soon be offering a diesel fuel with an admixture of synthetic fuel as early as 2021. The amount of this admixture should then be increased further and further in the next few years, a way that could be promising, because it gently creates acceptance among end users and relies on evolution instead of revolution.