Porsche has been working with companies like Siemens and ENAP to develop synthetic, carbon-neutral fuels for its internal combustion engines for a while now. Those plans have recently taken a big step forward, however, as Porsche and Siemens have announced plans to build a pilot plant in Chile that will be the world’s first fully integrated plant capable of producing synthetic fuel at an industrial scale — and the new factory should be up and running as early as next year.
According to the joint press release issued by Siemens Energy and Porsche, the initial pilot phase of the factory is set to produce around 130,000 liters of synthetic fuel (“eFuels”) by 2022. Production will increase in two further phases, bumping capacity to 55 million liters of eFuels a year in 2024, and 550 million liters per year in 2026.
Obviously that’s not going to be enough eFuels to really go around, but 550 million liters does translate to just over 145 million gallons of carbon-neutral fuel. That’s not nothing — especially in a country like Chile, where the pilot factory is being built. Known as Haru Oni, the Chilean fuels plant will feature a wind turbine to generating the electricity needed to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen will then be combined with carbon dioxide from the air to produce synthetic methanol, which is then refined into synthetic substitutes for gasoline, diesel, and kerosene to power existing internal-combustion vehicles.
“I’m very pleased to see that Siemens Energy and Porsche are developing production capacity in other countries, along with importing structures, for green hydrogen and its daughter products,” says Chile’s Federal Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier. “Thanks to German know-how, for the first time in the world innovation from the laboratory will now be applied in an integrated, commercial plant.”
For Porsche’s part, it has invested more than €20 million in the factory’s production, and has announced plans to develop the fuel throughout its motorsports fleet at endurance events like LeMans, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and others where Porsche hybrid cars compete. Don’t worry, though, e-mobility fans. Porsche isn’t doubting the electric future. “Electromobility is a top priority at Porsche,” offers Porsche CEO Oliver Blume. “eFuels for cars are a worthwhile complement to that — if 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. 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.”
I don’t know about you guys, but I love idea of carbon neutral fuels for regions like Latin America where the adoption of EVs, even as a high percentage of new vehicle sales, is going to be slow. Heck, visit cities that are thousands of miles apart like São Paolo, Havana, or San José, and you’ll see — in all of them — cars that are 15, 20, or even 50 years old still rolling around under their own power. Reducing that carbon footprint is going to take time, and synthetic fuels may help ease that transition.
That’s my take, anyway — what’s yours? Is synthetic fuel really something that may play a part in a carbon neutral future? Maybe in the fuel tank of some future, 2035 Mazda, for instance? Let us know what you think in the comments section at the bottom of the page.