As clean as electricity: Porsche to start making synthetic fuel next year that could slash petrol-engined cars' CO2 emissions by 85%

I get the idea.  It is to build up a fuel from basic components rather than modifying an existing fuel.  It would have to be very expensive

And I can't see how it would help.  The fuel will still be a hydrocarbon and burning a hydrocarbon gives off CO2

The whole thing is very light on detail  -- probably for good reasons

Porsche has outlined plans to begin trials in 2022 that could save its high-performance petrol cars from extinction.

The German sports car maker has been developing its own synthetic fuel - or eFuel - that it claims would cut CO2 emissions produced by internal combustion engines by as much as 85 per cent. 

The fuel would not require any modifications to a car and be compatible with both current and older vehicles - and it could make existing motors as clean as electric cars, when you take into account the carbon footprint created during production and supply.

Porsche has been working in partnership with Siemens Energy and other international companies since last year to develop and implement a pilot project in Chile designed to yield the 'world's first integrated, commercial, industrial-scale plant for making synthetic climate-neutral fuels'.

Last week, the company's head of motorsport, Dr Frank Walliser, provided an update on the plans ahead of the unveiling of the new £123,100 Porsche 911 GT3. 

With a 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat-six engine that can rev to a wailing 9,000rpm and produce a maximum 503bhp, it's no slouch - accelerating from 0-to-62mph in 3.4 seconds and to a top speed of 199mph.

But while it might be quick, it won't be particularly good for the planet when using traditional unleaded petrol. Porsche quotes CO2 emissions of 283 to 304g/km, depending on the car's specification.

With strict carbon targets set for manufacturers to meet and the impending ban on new petrol and diesel cars across various nations - it comes in from 2030 in the UK - it will spell an end to Porsche's internal combustion engine sports cars.

Porsche has already started its own transition to electric vehicles, with the launch of the impressive Taycan - priced from £70,690 in the UK - from 2019.

However, Walliser says the brand is set to begin trials of its own synthetic fuel next year that Porsche believes could make its high-performance petrol cars just as economical as an electric vehicle.  

He explained that the company, working with partners in South America, will 'for sure' start trials in 2022, though they will be 'very small volume' initially. 

'It's a long road with huge investment, but we are sure that this is an important part of our global effort to reduce the CO2 impact of the transportation sector,' he added. 

In December, the company announced a new partnership with energy firms Siemens Energy, AME and Enel and the Chilean petroleum company ENAP.

The aim is to build a plant specifically for the commercial production of synthetic fuels in Chile, which will use the location's blustery environment to produce eFuels with the aid of wind power.

If operational in 2022, Porsche says it could be producing 55 million litres of greener synthetic fuel by 2024, and as much as ten times that amount two years later. 

Commenting on the plans last year, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume reaffirmed that 'electromobility' remains the top priority at Porsche but eFuels for cars are a 'worthwhile complement to that' – as long as they’re produced in parts of the world where a 'surplus of sustainable energy is available'. 

'They are an additional element on the road to decarbonisation,' Blume said in December. 'Their advantages lie in their ease of application: eFuels can be used in combustion engines and plug-in hybrids, and can make use of the existing network of filling stations. 

'By using them, we can make a further contribution toward protecting the climate. As a maker of high-performance, efficient engines, we have broad technical expertise. We know exactly what fuel characteristics our engines need in order to operate with minimal impact on the climate. Our involvement in the world’s first commercial, integrated eFuels plant supports the development of the alternative fuels of the future.' 

Speaking last week at the premier of the 911 GT3, Walliser added: 'The general idea behind these synthetic fuels is that there is no change to the engine necessary, unlike what we have seen with E10 and E20, so really, everybody can use it, and we are testing with the regular specs of pump fuel.'

'It has no impact on performance - some horses more, so it's going in the right direction - but emissions are way better; we see less particles, less NOx - so that's going in the right direction'.

Explaining how they work, Walliser detailed: 'Synthetic fuels have around eight to ten components, where today's fuels have between 30 and 40. 

As it's an artificial, synthetic fuel, you have no by-products, so it's way cleaner - everything positive for the engine 
'As it's an artificial, synthetic fuel, you have no by-products, so it's way cleaner - everything positive for the engine.'

He added: 'At full scale, we expect a reduction in the CO2 impact of around 85 per cent. 

'If you consider well-to-wheel, where we have to transport fuel, we have a global supply chain, everything around that - you have efficiency across the whole process. In a well-to-wheel consideration, it is on the same level as an electric car.'

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