Banner Vehicles July 2019

Synthetic Fuelled ICE vehicles, EV’s or both?

The British government has asked the car industry to get ready to end the sale of cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2035, or possibly sooner if a consultation decides it should be earlier. Hybrid cars, which also use internal combustion engines, are also affected by the deadline.

At this stage the plan is intended to accelerate the adoption of a full EV solution with not much regard for anything else. (New Zealand’s government have similar plans for the automobile market, see our article in the April 2021 Newsletter).

Synthetic Fuel PlantThe consultation process with all the interested parties, or a government change could alter the target date, it signals the British government's intent, and it would take a courageous future government to suggest going in another direction.

While internal combustion engines can seem like old technology, by the 2030s, they will continue on as used vehicles well beyond that deadline. However, technology is available that will help ICE vehicles become even cleaner into the future, as well as help countries and businesses meet emissions targets.

Bosch Renewable FuelsOne business looking into alternative solutions is the German company Bosch. Bosch is a German multi-national engineering and technology company that was founded in 1886. Its core operating areas are mobility (hardware and software), consumer goods (including household appliances and power tools), industrial technology (including drive and control) and energy and building technology.

Recently at an annual media briefing the Bosch management outlined ways in which vehicles could become more sustainable. Suggesting that renewable energy will be able to offset CO2 emissions, and urged regulators to consider them rather than making rules about vehicle emissions that are so short sighted and restrictive.

Carbon Neutral IconBosch talked about finding ways to make internal combustion engines carbon neutral and their solution to achieve this would be with renewable synthetic fuels. Considering synthetic fuels in fleet consumption rather than tightening the CO2 rules for purely automotive emissions at times of crisis make this solution well worth investing in.

Bosch then added that while diesel engines remain very efficient, they have lost about 4% in market share recently and will eventually have to become carbon-neutral by using specific diesel based renewable fuels.

Another interesting point raised at this media briefing was that about half the vehicles that will be on European roads in 2030 have already been sold, most of course are ICE vehicles with petrol or diesel engines. These vehicles will also have to play their part in cutting CO2 emissions and this can only be achieved as far as Bosch is concerned is with renewable synthetic fuels.

Synthetic fuels have a chemical structure virtually identical to our current fossil fuels we use today, but Synfuel is more stable, and doesn’t deteriorate with age. The main challenge with the Synfuel is developing the infrastructure to produce it economically so that prices are comparable with fossil fuels. The raw material of Synfuels is electricity, water and carbon dioxide taken from the air.

Turning a greenhouse gas like CO2 into a resource would tick a lot of boxes and breath more life into our ICE vehicles. Bosch is a market leader in producing powertrain solutions like fuel injection systems for internal combustion engines, but not the fuel itself.

Most of the production processes for Synfuels stem from the last century, therefore synthetic fuels have long since left the basic research phase, so technically speaking, it is already possible to manufacture synthetic fuels on a very large scale. This production process produces a whole range of hydrocarbons from which any fuel from petrol to heavy oil can be refined.

The question which vehicles will benefit first from synthetic fuels is not so much a technical one but more of an economic one. Why don’t we hear more about this form of renewable energy instead of the overwhelming talk from the EV lobby?

June 2021

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