Cars with a lower overall carbon footprint than electric cars?
That is the future Porsche is envisioning as it joins forces with Siemens Energy and other international companies to build an industrial plant for the production of an almost carbon-neutral fuel (eFuel).
The ground-breaking ceremony for this pioneering project in Punta Arenas, Chile, took place last month – with Chile’s Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobet present. The pilot plant is called Haru Oni (aka Highly Innovative Fuels plant).
The plant will produce fuel that is nearly carbon-neutral and can be used with existing internal-combustion engines, according to Porsche. The fuel will be produced using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from the atmosphere will then be combined with the hydrogen to produce synthetic methanol, which will be converted into fuel or “eFuel” as Porsche has named it. Making this project even more green, electricity needed for production will come from wind power, lowering the carbon footprint of the production process, the company said in a statement.
All of this makes for one of the cleanest fuel sources on the planet, according to Porsche.
In fact, the process will be so clean that cars burning synthetic fuel will have a lower overall carbon footprint than electric cars once emissions related to manufacturing are factored in, according to Porsche vice president of GT cars and manufacturing Dr. Frank Walliser. However, Porsche noted that the amount of energy involved makes the process of manufacturing and distributing synthetic fuel is still less efficient than charging an electric car.
The is slated to produce around 34,340 gallons of fuel during the first stage slated for 2022. A second stage, through 2024 is expected to ramp up production to 14.5 million gallons annually. And a third stage that will take the project through 2026 will further boost annual production capacity to 145.3 million gallons.
Porsche plans to use synthetic fuel in its Mobil1 Supercup one-make race series beginning in 2022. The overall hope – along with the pressing environmental need for such technologies – is that synthetic fuel can help keep Porsche’s classic cars on the road in the era of electric cars and beyond.
For instance, the new fuel may be a good fit for the 911, which Porsche has hesitated to electrify.
But cost may prove to be an issue, along with the fact that the production process is not yet proven. The Porsche team of researchers are working to get the price below $2 per liter or $7.6 per gallon – but that would still make synthetic fuel more expensive than gasoline, even in Europe.Still, Porsche is hopeful about the future of this fuel.
“I’m pleased that we’re making progress on this international beacon project for the hydrogen economy together with strong international partners from business and politics,” says Armin Schnettler, EVP for New Energy Business at Siemens Energy. “With Haru Oni, we’re bringing our power-to-X technology to the global market. We’re jointly developing and realizing the world’s first integrated and commercial large-scale plant for producing synthetic, carbon-neutral fuels. In southern Chile, we’re implementing one of the energy industry’s most exciting projects for the future and driving forward the decarbonization of the mobility sector. It means we’re making an important and rapidly effective contribution to reducing CO2 emissions in the traffic and transport sector.”
The Haru Oni project benefits from the perfect climatic conditions for wind energy in Magallanes province in southern Chile to produce the virtually carbon-neutral fuel using low-cost green wind power, Porsche noted.
Porsche AG has set itself an ambitious goal: in 2030, the company wants to have a CO2-neutral balance sheet across the entire value chain. The Executive Board of Porsche AG provided information on this at the annual press conference.
“Sustainability is an important part of our Strategy 2030 – holistically: on economic, ecological, and social terms,” says Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG. “We launched a comprehensive decarbonization program with a firm target in mind: Porsche wants to have a CO2-neutral balance sheet throughout the entire value chain in 2030. We will achieve this by systematically avoiding and reducing CO2 emissions.”