March 3, 2022

E-fuels: Do they keep what they promise?

The idea is simple: Synthetic fuels would be produced using electricity. These so called e-fuels could operate in existing combustion engines without major problems. They could be distributed via the existing gas station network. Clean fuel without climate-damaging emissions that all modern cars today can use – wouldn’t that be an ideal solution? Unfortunately not. First of all the efficiency of synthetic gasoline is shockingly low. In an electric car 73 percent of the energy provided is used to drive, the figure for e-fuels is only 13 percent. This means that e-fuels are by far the least efficient of the drive technologies currently available. It takes five times as much energy to cover the same distance with e-fuels as with an e-car. So for a car powered by E-fuels you need 115kWh for 100km and for an E-car only 18kWh. Experts doubt that e-fuel generation can be scaled up to the levels needed to fuel the European or even the global vehicle fleet. They however do see a role for e-fuels in sectors where no alternatives exist, such as aviation or shipping. Studies show that direct use of electricity through direct charging of electric vehicles is the most efficient way. Green energy to run those cars is naturally crucial. Of course, even electric cars are only one part of the solution: if possible, using cars less, car sharing or choosing public transport can be good alternatives to reduce emissions and advance our transport and mobility system towards a more sustainable or climate-friendly future.