Porsche’s eFuels may Compete with Electric Cars


Jake Greene

2021 seems to be the year where electric cars are actually a practical contender against internal combustion vehicles, but new eFuel technology may be a better alternative. With companies such as Tesla and Rivian building completely electric vehicles, and other manufacturers such as Voltswagon and Audi making the switch over to electric, there is no excuse not to consider moving over to electric cars. But is this really the most sustainable option? Is there any other option to help save our planet? “As a way to make driving existing vehicles more sustainable, Porsche has been working on a synthetic fuel it calls eFuels that the company says can make an internal-combustion engine as clean as an EV,” Car and Driver explains. 

The main problem with internal combustion engines is the Co2 left over from combustion process. 90% of Gasoline is made up of hydrocarbons, a family of naturally occurring chemicals composed of hydrogen and carbon. Posche’s solution does not solve the problem of releasing Co2 into the atmosphere, but focuses on how the carbon is sourced. This is what makes their solution carbon neutral. Our everyday gasoline comes from refined crude oil, which is a naturally occurring liquid mostly composed of fossilized plankton and algae extracted from the earth. So that means when we burn the fossil fuels extracted from the earth, we are releasing new co2 into the atmosphere. Porsche has developed a way to not extract hydrocarbons, but to extract hydrogen and carbon separately.  

Using electrolysis, Porsche can extract hydrogen from H20 by using electricity. The next step would be to extract and filter the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They have not specified on how this extraction process will be done, but it is hypothesized that it will be done with a large electrically charged panel that will separate the Co2 from the air. Once they have both Co2 and hydrogen, they can keep performing electrolysis to eventually get a carbon neutral equivalent of gasoline. It is a very tedious process but the end result is promising. Porsche states that using pure hydrogen and carbon, you end up with a fuel that burns much cleaner and produces 85% less Co2 emissions. Since each of these steps use electricity, Porsche plans to build their facilities in Chile where they have access to cheap green energy. This green energy is created by using solar panels and wind turbines making this whole process carbon neutral. 

Now this all sounds great, but how could it possibly contend with modern electric vehicles. The first thing to consider is how much Co2 it takes too process an internal combustion vehicle compared to an electric vehicle. Manufacturing your standard gas car requires on average, 7 tons of co2. Electric vehicles require mining rare minerals such as cobalt and lithium for the battery system. This results in 14-21 tons of Co2. Now the other thing to consider is how much Co2 will be produced over the vehicle’s lifespan. A regular gas car will emit around 50 tons of Co2 over its lifetime. Electric vehicles don’t release Co2 directly but if the electricity is not sourced from clean energy, the vehicle will produce around 20 tons over its lifetime. Less than the 50 tons cars produce, but still a significant output of Co2. 

But how does Porsches new fuel compare? Well there isn’t an exact estimate yet, but it won’t be exactly zero. Transportation and building the facilities is still a factor of this new E-fuel placing it right up in the running alongside electric cars. This is all very exciting and could be a big breakthrough, but like everything new, it takes time and costs a lot of money. Yes, it could be too good to be true, but maybe Porsche will be the one to give us another solution.