E-fuels represent a promising solution for reducing CO2 emissions. By using renewable energies, e-fuels can be produced as an alternative to fossil fuels and thus contribute to clean, low-emission mobility. However, the technology also has its disadvantages.
1. What are e-fuels?
E-fuels are fuels that are produced from renewable energies and are therefore emission-free. They represent a promising solution for reducing CO2 emissions. By using renewable energies, e-fuels can be produced as an alternative to fossil fuels and thus contribute to clean, low-emission mobility.
They can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help us replace fossil fuels such as oil.
2. How does the production of e-fuels work?
In the first step, hydrogen is produced via electrolysis – this is sensibly done using renewable energy sources such as solar energy, hydropower or wind energy.
In the second step, hydropower is enriched with CO2. To do this, CO2 can be extracted from the ambient air or CO2 can be taken from waste products from industrial processes. In a third step, the e-fuel is generated via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. The e-fuel is then obtained via so-called hydro-cracking.
Various additives can then be mixed in to produce e-gasoline, e-diesel, e-kerosene or e-heating oil.
3. What are the advantages of e-fuels compared to other alternative fuels?
The arguments in favour of e-fuels are:
The use of e-fuels is climate neutral. During operation, the combustion engine emits CO2. During the production of e-fuels, on the other hand, CO2 is extracted from the ambient air.
E-fuels can be produced with solar or wind energy.
E-fuels have the same properties as petrol, diesel or paraffin.
They can be used for existing vehicles without conversion.
Existing storage and distribution infrastructures can be used.
E-fuels have a relatively high energy density.
E-fuels are a sensible alternative to fossil fuels.
E-fuels can be mixed with fossil fuels.
No batteries are used, as is the case with electric vehicles. There is no need to dispose of these batteries.
There is less dependency. No lithium, cobalt or rare earths are needed, as with battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
4. What are the challenges in developing and implementing e-fuels?
Here are the drawbacks:
A lot of energy is lost in the conversion of electricity into synthetic fuels.
Efficiency is significantly lower than for electric vehicles.
E-fuels emit toxic substances such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and ammonia.
Internal combustion engines are more maintenance-intensive and heavier than electric engines.
The electricity required for the production of e-fuels is relatively high and can be used more effectively for green electricity and other applications.
The efficiency of hydrogen engines is higher. Hydrogen can be used directly. However, conventional engines cannot be run on hydrogen.
Porsche has started to produce e-fuels in Chile together with other partners at the end of 2022. VW has also started a project to produce e-fuels together with Shell. Formula 1 will only use e-fuels from 2026.
Formula 2 and Formula 3 will already use sustainable petrol from 2023. These examples show that the industry is driving the development of this technology. The potential of e-fuels is promising. It is estimated that around 1.3 billion vehicles with combustion engines are in operation worldwide.
Gradually, these vehicles could be powered by e-fuels. However, there are also clear disadvantages to this technology. These challenges have to be solved first. Currently, we see much more attractive investment opportunities in the electromobility, hydrogen and fuel cell sectors.