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Everything you need to know about e-fuel

In the simplest terms, e-fuel is a gasoline made entirely from clean energy (wind and water in the case of Porsche’s version) that can be used in any of the above internal combustion engines. planet.

It doesn’t require mining or burning fossils to create but instead removes CO2 from the atmosphere during production, which is why Porsche calls its particular brand a ‘virtually carbon-free’ fuel. ‘. For the planet, really, for all of us, that certainly makes e-fuel very good news, doesn’t it? Exactly.

It’s made by separating the hydrogen from the oxygen that you get in plain old water (H2O) using a machine called an all-wind-powered electrolyzer, which, in the case of Porsche, is is harnessed by a giant Siemens turbine in the extreme south of Chile, where the wind blows really hard, all the time. Here we are talking about the Strait of Magellan and the Horn of the Sea, which are notoriously dangerous to negotiate.

The hydrogen extracted from this process is then mixed with CO2 extracted from the air using an entirely new process called ‘air capture technology’ to produce e-methanol.

This e-methanol then undergoes a final process called MTG (methanol to gasoline) developed by Exxon-Mobil, at the final stage a 93 octane raw fuel is produced. This can then be raised to whatever octane rating you require with final additives. And not a single fossil was burned in the entire process.

The resulting e-fuel could be used in everything from carbureted Rover V8 cars to Porsche Panamera Turbo WILL to a commercial airliner. It is versatile in its potential use.

In cars that emit less than about 100g/km, it’s actually closer to negative carbon than neutral carbon because the CO2 removed from the atmosphere during production almost exceeds the amount of CO2 released when burned. So, in theory, making fuel e-fuel is actually a huge win.

But there are certainly caveats. For starters, it costs a lot of money right now, mainly because none of it is in circulation yet. The shiny new plant I visited recently in Chile – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – can produce just 130,000 liters of e-fuel a year along with 350 tons of electric methanol. death. So at this point the remarkable price tag of £40-45 ($72-81) a gallon is a bit ridiculous since you can’t really buy any of that. Not yet.

But as with any commodity, price is always related to supply, and the whole idea of ​​Porsche getting into e-fuels is not to make or sell those things – it makes and sells cars. , not fuel – but instead to be the charismatic lead for a technology that is, in fact, being funded and developed by the very same energy companies that have spent billions of dollars over many years. years to produce conventional fuel.

The main financial stake in the Porsche plant (run by High Innovative Fuels Global – HIF) was taken in by a Chilean mining company called Andes Mining Energy, while the most expensive piece of technology in the house itself machine – the MTG system – was supplied by Exxon Mobil. So, in some ways, e-fuel is like regular fuel but cleanly reworked, then remarketed with an attractive new Porsche badge on the barrel.

However, whoever makes it, and whichever company makes the most money from it, e-fuel has to be seen as a good thing overall. A very good thing if Porsche succeeds in convincing legislators around the world to enact legislation in favor of, rather than against, it in the short and medium term.

Because what Porsche is trying to say here is; Look, we can’t ignore this technology any longer because in 15-20 years the internal combustion engine is here to stay, like it or not. And right now, the infrastructure for widespread electrification is not globally available, and in fact won’t be for at least another decade, possibly longer, which means there is a time gap. huge need to be overcome if we really become carbon. neutral world by 2050.

After all, it is estimated that more than a billion ICE vehicles will still on our roads by 2030 and will still need fuel to run – but if they run on e-fuel instead of regular gasoline it’s a long time away, worse things will end up in the atmosphere from now until then.

And in case you’re still wondering, the problem isn’t what comes out of the tailpipe. It is the process of creating the fuel that powers cars, planes, trucks and ships that really matters. The main difference is that (as stated before) the production of e-fuel is clean; The production of conventional gasoline is anything but.

Ultimately, a vehicle will emit the same amount of CO2 when running on e-fuel as when running on conventional fuel, and it will also consume the same amount of fuel. Same number of g/km and L/100km. But creating the fuel in the first place was our mistake.

E-fuels, synthetic fuels, biomass fuels – call them what you like, they all have similar results – are definitely a major part of the short to medium term answer . The main claim of Porsche’s popularity with e-fuel is that it is faster and easier to scale up and produce at the industrial level.

For anyone who enjoys running a classic car without guilt for the next 20-30 years and beyond, e-fuel could be a more permanent solution. If they really take off, they’ll be usable and affordable almost forever.

And perhaps the best news is that, finally, our legislators can begin to make sense. On 2 March, the UK’s Transport Select Committee published a paper advising the government to do whatever it can, as quickly as possible, to speed up mass production. and e-fuel use in the automotive and aeronautical industries, while well taking a long-term view of how e-fuel can be used for transportation and transportation at the same time.

It’s not a turning point, but it shows that our decision makers are at least listening to those who know what they’re talking about.

In the end, that’s all about Porsche e-fuelling; Make politicians and global industry wake up, listen and hope to do the right thing, now, before it’s too late.

Can e-fuel save from? Not alone, no. But it’s a great place to start, because we’re left with almost no other choice.

Driving Panamera Turbo S with electronic fuel

So what does it feel like to drive a Porsche e-fuelled twin-turbo V8 – the same, different, better or worse than the same conventional unleaded fuel car?

Well, once I did a factory tour in Chile and was astounded, stunned, impressed and utterly amazed at the science behind it, Porsche gave me the keys to a Turbo. S and invited me to drive it along the famous road. End of The World Road, filled it with 50 liters (about $500) of e-fuel. So then I drove it for a few hundred miles.

The scenery is amazing, the roads are endlessly long and straight, and not very buoyant most of the time. I’ve seen Pumas and Condors (seriously) and driven for hours through some of the most unspoiled, unspoiled landscape you’ll ever want to visit.

Every time I stop for a nice rest or just to get out and take a good look around, the Panamera’s door swings open wildly in the wind. Because it is always there, it never ends.

That is exactly why Porsche, HIF and Exxon Mobil and all the other investors in e-fuel came here in the first place – to harness the power of a wind that never stops.

And unless they all collaborate on a really large scale, it still works. The Panamera runs on e-fuel that it filled up on the first day at the plant in exactly the same way it runs on conventional unleaded fuel that it filled hundreds of miles on the second day. There is no difference.

That seemed like a big realization at the time but only because there was no obvious change. Same fuel consumption, same emissions, same throttle feel, same car.

Except on day one, the Panamera ran on a fuel whose production removed most of the CO2 its V8 engine then released back into the atmosphere, and on day two it was a one-way street afternoon.

It’s a potentially life-changing difference, a difference that could mean it’s still possible to make a U-turn and change our trajectory even at this late stage, even on Ruta del Fin del Mundo. Supposedly, our rulemakers and major industries — to be fair, all of us — are willing to compromise a little and, for once, do the right thing.

After all, we got into this mess from the very beginning. Now it’s up to us – and them – to get things right. And e-fuel is certainly part of the solution.


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