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As countries around the world, particularly those within the European Union (E.U.), have become increasingly interested in reducing their emission rates, the potential utilization of electricity-based fuels, otherwise referred to as e-fuels, has offered the ability for these regions to successfully address these climate targets. In fact, the E.U. estimates that e-fuels will successfully meet more than 70% of all transportation-related energy demands by 2050, of which will include aviation, shipping and freight related transport. E-fuels are defined as either gaseous or liquid fuels, such as hydrogen, methane, synthetic petrol and diesel fuels that have been generated from renewable electricity1.
As researchers continue to develop different methods of chemical synthesis for novel e-fuel options, they are faced with the difficulty of matching these e-fuels to the proper vehicle infrastructure. In addition to this increased need for infrastructure development, the current high cost of e-fuels that can be as high as 4.50 € is also a limiting factor for this technology’s future development. To ensure that the full potential of e-fuels is capable of meeting the E.U.’s expected emission goals over the next several decades, there is an urgent need for policy makers to develop a structured agenda that supports technology research, market development and regulation of e-fuels to allow for its realistic application across all sectors in the near future.
Audi’s E-Gas Advances
Over the last several years, the automotive company Audi has been a leading developer in the advancement of e-fuels. Some of Audi’s most notable developments in this area of science include their e-gas, e-diesel and e-ethanol fuels, all of which are capable of powering vehicles in the same manner as traditional fossil fuels. The only difference between Audi’s e-fuels and traditional fuel options is that Audi utilizes carbon dioxide (CO2) as the raw material, which means that the same amount of CO2 that is used to create the e-fuel is the same that is burned while it is being used2. While this may not seem like a particularly environmentally friendly option since Audi’s e-fuels still burn CO2, they are a much cleaner option as compared to currently used fossil fuel alternatives.
In an effort to further progress their e-fuel development, Audi has recently developed their newest e-fuel option known as ‘e-benzin.’ Following the production of a gaseous isobutene (C4H8), an additional hydrogen is added to form isooctane (C8H18), which produces a final product that is free of both sulfur and benzene3. As a result, when e-benzin is used by engines and burned, it produces an exceptionally low amount of pollutants in the air. Audi has also found that this high-purity synthetic fuel exhibits impressive anti-knock properties while also increasing engine compression and overall fuel efficiency in applied vehicles.
The E-Fuel Solution
Although e-fuels are not purely clean energy options, their ability to expand the use of renewable electricity is expected to increase sustainable mobility in a wide variety of industrial sectors. One of the biggest advantages associated with the use of e-fuels is their ability to be used in vehicles that contain traditional petrol/diesel/gas infrastructures. Although purely battery-operated vehicles exhibit an increased fuel production efficiency while completely eliminating any potential energy losses or environmental impact as compared to e-fuels, these options are not currently available for larger transport vehicles. As a result, researchers believe that the most advantageous application of e-fuels would be within the aviation industry, where this fuel option is expected to dramatically transform the fuel efficiency and environmental impact of aircrafts.
“The potential of electricity-based fuels for low-emission transport in the EU” – German Energy Agency
“This E-Fuel Works Just Like Gasoline But is Entirely Carbon Neutral” – Jalopnik
“Audi advances e-fuels technology: new “e-benzin” fuel being tested” – Audi MediaCenter