To limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees compared with the start of industrialization, and if possible even to 1.5 degrees Celsius – this is what the Paris Climate Protection Agreement requires. To achieve this, among other measures, fossil CO₂ emissions from traffic need be reduced to zero over the next three decades. But how? Electric mobility is only now really taking off, but it is only as emission-free as the electricity used to charge the battery. In addition, around half of the vehicles that will be on the road in 2030 have already been sold – they are already populating the streets, and most of them are still powered by a conventional combustion engine. However, in order for the vehicle population to make a contribution to the reduction at CO₂, new types of drive are necessary. Of course, this primarily includes electromobility. But even the installed base of vehicles with combustion engines can massively reduce their CO2 emissions, argues Bosch. This is possible with synthetic fuels, known as eFuels.
The company cites seven reasons why eFuels should be part of the mobility mix of the future:
1: Time: eFuels have long since emerged from basic research; it is already possible to produce synthetic fuels today on a commercial basis: Electricity from renewable energies is initially used to produce hydrogen from water. Carbon is also needed. From CO₂ and H₂, synthetic fuels – i.e. petrol, diesel, gas or kerosene – can then be created. The necessary production processes are well established. However, the Bosch experts say that capacities must be expanded quickly to meet demand.
2: Climate neutrality: eFuels are generated exclusively with renewable energies (or at least their use only makes sense if they are generated from such energies), hence the “e” in the name. The CO₂ used in production is ideally taken from the ambient air. This turns the greenhouse gas into a raw material. A production cycle is created: The CO₂, which is also generated and emitted during the combustion of eFuels, can be recycled and used for the production of new eFuels. For example, vehicles powered by synthetic fuel are climate neutral.
3: Infrastructure and drive technology: eFuels can be used in existing infrastructures and current engines. Experts thus speak of “drop-in” eFuels. They work directly in the existing infrastructure and thus become effective much faster than would be possible if infrastructure and vehicles need to be renewed (as would be the case with battery electric vehicles of fuel cell drives). They can also be added to conventional fuel and thus already contribute to the CO₂ reduction in the existing vehicle fleet if they cannot yet be produced nationwide.
4: Cost: The production of synthetic fuels is still expensive. However, Bosch experts have analyzed that eFuels will become significantly cheaper as larger production capacities are built up and the costs of generating renewable electricity fall. According to studies, pure fuel costs of 1.20 to 1.40 euros per litre (excluding tax) are feasible by 2030, and by 2050 even only costs around 1 euro. The cost disadvantage compared to fossil fuels could be significantly reduced if the environmental advantage of eFuels were given a value. The fact that the existing infrastructure and vehicle technology can be used is an advantage over other alternative drive types.
5: Possible applications: Even if one day all cars and trucks are powered by batteries or fuel cells: Airplanes, ships and parts of heavy goods vehicles will continue to run on conventional fuels in the future. Combustion engines that run on CO₂-neutral synthetic fuels are therefore indispensable anyway.
6: Resources: tank or plate? In contrast to so-called biofuels, with synthetic current-based fuels, there is no competition between fuel production and food production. Innovative biofuels, which, for example, are obtained from waste materials, are not available indefinitely. On the other hand, eFuels can be produced with renewable electricity without any quantitative limits. The demand for renewable energies required for production can be generated worldwide, since storage and transport are easily possible.
7: Storage and transport: Synthetic fuels are produced with renewable energy. They are then available in the form of gas or liquid. In this respect, eFuels make it possible to store large quantities of renewable energy and transport it relatively cheaply around the world. Irregularities in solar or wind energy as well as regional restrictions on the expansion of renewable energies can thus be offset.