The Porsche name is synonymous with a certain kind of innovation, one that inspires admiration and respect from even the most brand-ignorant population. Last week, the German automobile company broached new innovative territory: synthetic fuel production.
CNBC reports that a Chile-based plant began production of a synthetic “e-fuel” on December 20th, marking the beginning of an endeavor to create an alternative fuel option for vehicles with internal combustion engines. This endeavor represents a clear response to an increase in calls for gas car bans across the world that cite the destruction caused by petrol production and consumption.
The fuel itself is “a type of synthetic methanol produced by a complex process using water, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide” according to CNBC. Over the course of the next four or so years, Porsche expects to produce over 145 million gallons of e-fuel.
While the synthetic fuel isn’t entirely carbon neutral, it does offer a much more environmentally friendly experience than traditional fuel. CNBC notes that cars that use internal combustion engines will still need oil for lubrication.
Synthetic fuel also has the bonus of being able to use existing fueling stations and the infrastructure currently present here in the United States. Comparatively, creating an electric car-friendly infrastructure is an expensive endeavor, conservatively requiring “billions of dollars” of investments.
However, CNBC does note that a wholesale push to replace fossil fuels with e-fuel isn’t a particularly realistic vision, at least for now. America averaged a consumption of 369 million gallons of fuel per day in 2021, over twice the amount that Porsche hopes to produce in several years.
But the long-term impact of e-fuel is not without its allure. Michael Steiner, director of research and development for Porsche, acknowledges the reality of the future of driving even as the push to go electric affects the company for which he works.
“The potential of eFuels is huge. There are currently more than 1.3 billion vehicles with combustion engines worldwide. Many of these will be on the roads for decades to come, and eFuels offer the owners of existing cars a nearly carbon-neutral alternative,” says Steiner.
Whether they’re electric or fueled by a reduced-carbon alternative to gasoline, cars of the future have, at the very least, a chance to slow or even halt some of the more deleterious effects of fossil fuel consumption.