In an effort to keep their gas-powered sports cars sustainably on the road, Porsche is investing heavily in nearly carbon-neutral synthetic eFuel.
Driving an electric vehicle is a hot topic these days for a host of reasons, not the least of which is climate change concern. Add to that gasoline prices are through the roof, which we talk about here, and it’s easy to see why drivers are looking for a change. Some may go the diesel route for greater fuel economy versus gasoline as we discuss here, while others aim to stretch every drop of gas. For tips and tricks on this approach to improving your MPG, don’t miss this article.
An important asterisk to the electric vehicle future is that vehicles with a gas-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) will be on the road for quite some time. Porsche recognizes this and, in response, has invested big bucks in what they call synthetic eFuel. With a nearly carbon-neutral production process and hydrogen-based final product, the automakers’ goal is to improve sustainability of their existing ICE fleet while they work toward an electrified future.
This eFuel is created by first separating water into its base hydrogen and oxygen components via electrolysis. The hydrogen is then processed with CO2, which has been extracted from the air, to create e-methanol. Next, a methanol-to-gasoline synthesis process results in synthetic raw gasoline that is finally converted into standard-compliant gasoline that can be used in any gas-powered ICE.
There are two important aspects here that are creating all the buzz. For one, the electricity required to run the above process – and it is electric-intensive – is created from wind energy captured in the gusty plains of Southern Chile’s Magallanes Province. It is here that Porsche has invested $75 million into the production of eFuel with the help of Chilean company Highly Innovative Fuels, Siemens Energy, and ExxonMobil.
Between the ingredients and process used to create eFuel, Porsche expects the overall production of greenhouse gas emissions to drop dramatically from “well to wheel.” As Porsche Vice President of Motorsport and GT cars told Evo magazine, “Synthetic fuel is cleaner and there is no byproduct, and when we start full production, we expect a CO2 reduction of 85 percent. From a ‘well to wheel’ perspective—and you have to consider the well-to-wheel impact of all vehicles—this will be the same level of CO2 produced in the manufacture and use of an electric vehicle.”
The other important aspect here is that this new synthetic gas can be pumped into a standard gas-powered engine without modification. Which means, all of Porsche’s loyal 911 fans will have the option to drive their sports cars in an environmentally-friendly fashion for years, or even decades, to come. In fact, along with motorsport application and possibly selling eFuel at their Experience Centers, the automaker makes plain that their goal is to ensure 911 customers are not left behind as even Porsche goes electric.
Currently, Porsche is hoping for an annual production of about 34,000 gallons of synthetic eFuel at the plant in Chile to be used exclusively by them. Plans are afoot to build additional factories in the United States and Australia, and apply eFuel to the aviation and ocean shipping industry. To that end, Porsche has been talking up “motorsport flagship projects” to promote their new sustainability efforts.
So far, the entire 2021 season of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race series featured eFuel-powered 911 GT3 Cup cars without hiccup. More recently, and relevant to most Porsche owners, the new 718 Cayman GT4 RS successfully showed off its skills at the GP Ice Race that took place in snow-covered Zell am See, Austria this past February. It was the first street-legal car running on the company’s new synthetic eFuel and is a harbinger of where Porsche is headed as they drive this technology forward.
Time will tell if synthetic gasoline will be a viable replacement for the petroleum-based stuff. All consumers, even those driving 911s, will surely be paying attention to cost. Currently, premium fuel represents a significant upcharge over regular, a topic we discuss here, so it will be interesting to see a price tag on synthetic. And of course, there is the question of efficiency. Will cars powered by this new fuel match up with some of most efficient cars currently available? Interesting times indeed.