eFuels: Porsche Is Betting on Synthetic Fuels
For a long time, climate change has been the main topic in global environmental discussions. Europe, for example, wants to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. With the increasingly strong restrictions on carbon emissions, automotive companies are racing to develop new sustainable solutions.
With that challenge in mind, Porsche has developed a nearly CO2-neutral eFuel. The fuel is an option for customers who don't want to switch to an electric vehicle. The project is in partnership with Highly Innovative Fuels (HIF), Siemens Energy, and Exxon Mobil, and a new plant was inaugurated in 2022 in Punta Arenas, in the south of Chile.
Porsche eFuel or eGasoline is synthetic gasoline with the same properties as fossil fuel. At the pilot plant, Haru Oni, the eFuel is obtained through hydrogen electrolysis and the addition of CO2. For that, solar and wind energy are used in the process, making Chile the perfect place to produce this fuel, as Punta Arenas has wind for about 270 days a year and approximately 250 km/h. The local weather conditions allow the wind turbines to operate at their maximum capacity. In addition, fuel distribution is more accessible due to the factory's location and proximity to the Strait of Magellan and the port of Cabo Negro.
The manufacturing process for this fuel consists of separating hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolyzers use wind power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, then CO2 is taken from the air to be combined with that hydrogen to form synthetic methanol and, through MTG (methanol to gasoline) technology, it becomes into eFuel. It is worth mentioning that this fuel can be used in standard engines. Meaning that engines will not need to be modified to accept eFuel.
Producing eFuel was a very expensive gamble by Porsche. The company has invested over 100 million dollars in developing and making eFuels. For instance, the sports car manufacturer invested 75 million dollars in HIF Global LLC, which specializes in creating synthetic fuel production plants. Furthermore, this venture will allow the German brand to reach carbon neutrality in 2030.
While the creation of e-fuels means that combustion engines are not replaced by electric motors, Porsche is betting on this fuel as a complement to electric vehicles, taking into account zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Porsche Board of Management, says: "Synthetic fuels are a complementary and effective solution in this regard. Because combustion engines can work with e-fuels with practically zero carbon emissions".
This view was reinforced by Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Development and Research at Porsche AG, who said: "There are currently more than 1.3 billion vehicles with combustion engines worldwide. Many of these will be on the roads for decades to come, and e-fuels offer the owners of existing cars a nearly carbon-neutral alternative."
During the project's initial phase, all fuel generated will power the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup series and the Porsche Experience Centers. However, Porsche aims to manufacture up to 55 million liters annually by 2025. After that, the expectation is to manufacture up to 550 million liters per year by the end of the decade to supply around 1.3 billion combustion vehicles. It is worth mentioning that the other project partners are the energy company AME and the oil company ENAP from Chile, and the Italian energy company Enel. Enel is the co-financier of the plant, focusing on wind power and electrolysis, while ENAP will support the project by providing operational, maintenance, and logistics personnel.