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Porsche E fuels FUTURE for internal combustion Engines


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eFuels to supplement electric mobility on the road to becoming CO2 neutral

Using electricity to create fuel: just a few weeks ago, construction started on a plant initiated by Porsche for producing virtually CO2-neutral fuel. The Haru Oni joint project, involving Porsche, Siemens Energy and various other international partners, will be the world's first integrated, large-scale commercial plant to manufacture synthetic, carbon-neutral fuels. Located in the Magallanes Province of southern Chile, the plant takes advantage of the region's ideal conditions for generating wind energy, which will be used as a sustainable source of electricity to produce synthetic petrol.

The pilot plant in Chile is scheduled to start production by mid-2022. Joining Siemens Energy and Porsche in working on the Haru Oni project are various other partners, including Italian energy company Enel, ExxonMobil and the Chilean energy companies Gasco, ENAP and AME – the main developer and owner of Highly Innovative Fuels (HIF), the company running the project.

Given its status as a sports car manufacturer, Porsche plans to use the eFuels in its own combustion-engined models. The huge number of vehicles on the world's roads
– some 1.3 billion according to the latest figures – means that the transition to electric mobility is not happening fast enough to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. In addition, different regions of the world are adopting electric mobility at varying speeds, meaning vehicles with combustion engines will remain on the road for decades to come.

eFuels produced via a virtually CO2-neutral process will mean that these vehicles can still help to rapidly reduce carbon emissions. "We urgently need a solution for operating existing fleets of vehicles in a sustainable way," explains Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG. "This goal can be achieved with green fuels, which are a sensible complement to electric vehicles." These fuels also represent a solution for other traffic sectors in which electrification is either very difficult or impossible, such as air travel and shipping.

Obtaining cheap renewable energy for the production process is vital for ensuring that eFuels can quickly develop into a competitive product. A wind turbine located next to the pilot plant in Chile operates at full load for an average of 270 days per year. The same equipment in Germany would only do so for around 80 days per year, due to the country's geographical and meteorological conditions. This means that the Chilean wind power plant’s 74 per cent utilisation ratio for full-load hours is three and a half times higher than could be achieved in Germany, where the utilisation ratio is 22 per cent from all onshore wind turbines.

The low cost of energy for manufacturing eFuels in Chile is not the only important factor: taxes and charges will also have an impact on the price, and therefore the financial success, of the product. eFuels will become competitive faster as fossil fuels become more expensive in the years ahead due to regulatory measures such as energy taxes and carbon pricing, as well as measures that make eFuels exempt from such charges, i.e. charges relevant to CO2 emissions.

The methanol-to-gasoline (MtG) process being pioneered by the Haru Oni project group will initially focus on fuel for petrol engines. eFuels are produced from just two raw materials: water and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is generated via electrolysis, which involves passing a direct current through water. The hydrogen is split off and collected at the negative pole (cathode). Carbon dioxide, the other essential component for producing eFuels, is drawn straight from the ambient air using a process called direct air capture. Large fans blow air through filters in which the carbon dioxide contained in the atmosphere is deposited. Methanol synthesis causes the H2 and CO2 to react and produce eMethanol (CH3OH), which then goes through MtG synthesis and is converted into synthetic, straight-run petrol.

This virtually CO2-neutral fuel is then blended and refined to the point that it complies with the current DIN EN 228 fuel standard, allowing it to be used directly in petrol vehicles or added to fossil fuels. Some comparatively minor modifications to the plant would enable the partners to convert the eMethanol into products such as eKerosene for aircraft, as well.

From 2022, the pilot plant will produce around 130,000 litres of eFuels per year. Porsche will purchase this volume in full – and will initially use the green fuel primarily in its motorsports activities. Chile has also set itself some ambitious targets as part of its National Green Hydrogen Strategy. One of its goals is to produce the world’s cheapest hydrogen and develop the country into a leading exporter of green hydrogen

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I am currently studying in high school, and I am doing a research project on the future of Porsche and in particular the future of the sustainability of Porsche. From my research I have discovered that Porsche are in development of synthetic fuels which could be used as an alternative to electric vehicles. Simply put, Synthetic fuels are made from using electricity to split water molecules back into its basic elements (Hydrogen and Oxygen) through a process called electrolysis. After this the captured hydrogen is mixed with carbon monoxide produced from the captured CO2 to create hydrocarbons- which are similar to the ones found in regular fossil fuels. As these have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to the usual fossil fuels are used today, this can allow the production of combustion engines to continue without as many environmental implications.

As Porsche are soon saying goodbye to their legacy of the flat 6 combustion engine in the next decade, synthetic fuels can offer a way to keep the petrol engines alive.

As I assume you all must hold Porsche very close to your heart, I would love to hear your opinions on the future of Porsche electric and whether synthetic fuels may be a viable option.

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I have also been researching about several different countries plans on when they are going to convert to all electric vehicles. I have found many countries have their own different ways of converting to sustainable alternatives. For example, In Australia it is forecasted that between 2045 and 2050 more than 20 million electric vehicles- close to 100 per cent of vehicles on the road. The Australian Government has announced their plan to improve the usability of EV’s by improving the access to charging stations. Compared to other countries such as the USA with Biden setting a target to have half of the vehicles sold in 2030 to be zero- emissions vehicles.  Australia’s sustainable plans are coming a lot later.

This means that we could still continue to see car culture in Australia strive more as more people can drive their combustion cars without the worries of carbon-emission regulations.  

What are your thoughts on this? Is it a good thing that Australia are coming late to the carbon emitting bans?

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