The last minute pressures of Germany and Italy have forced the European Commission to reverse the ban on cars with internal combustion engines in 2035 as had been decided in Parliament. A document to which ABC has had access now proposes creating a new category of vehicles that would include those with an internal combustion engine that can only function using carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, that is, e-fuels.
The German Government had refused to ratify the last procedure to definitively approve the regulation of motor vehicles and which establishes that from 2035 only electric cars could be sold and registered. Germany was joined first by Italy and then by the Czech Republic, so that a group large enough could be formed to block approval with their votes within the Council.
The Commission and the rest of the countries received this change of position from Germany with considerable annoyance, especially since it had also been triggered as an initiative promoted by one of the components of the government coalition in Berlin, the Liberal Party (FPD), which It is the smallest of the three that compose it. However, in the European political circles also has had some impact in recent days the electoral result in the Netherlands, the country of origin of Vice President Frans Timmermans, who is primarily responsible for the application of the “green deal” laws within the EU. The spectacular victory of the Peasants’ Party has been interpreted as a warning of the unrest that is beginning to take its toll on European societies in the face of the acceleration of laws on climate neutrality and the energy transition.
What Germany was asking for was a statement from the Commission in which it undertook to review the decision to ban internal combustion engines before 2030, precisely to give time to find out if alternative fuel technology has a future or not.
The draft that the European Commission has prepared specifies that vehicles with internal combustion engines that want to be marketed after 2035 must have a system to indicate that they are effectively using e-fuel and another that prevents them from starting if they are using fuels conventional gasoline or diesel.
Until now, the Commission had considered that synthetic fuels would be too expensive and inefficient in relation to electricity and had so far refused to include it in the list of authorized technologies in Europe. But some manufacturers have indicated their intention to manufacture this type of product outside the EU in order to continue producing internal combustion engines.
The European Commission had launched its “Fit for 55” package of measures in July 2021 and until now only manufacturers that produce fewer than a thousand cars per year had been spared from the ban on selling internal combustion engines, which limited this privilege to the big brands of luxury supercars. This is why it was called the “Ferrari amendment.”
The new proposal must be approved by all other countries and still remains to be technically defined the characteristics of the fuels synthetics and that these allow their production under profitable conditions. If the change is consolidated, the brands that want to preserve the old technology of internal combustion engines have a path ahead of them to develop both synthetic fuels, which will be different from biofuels, and also systems so that the car cannot be used in no case conventional hydrocarbons. The main advantage is that there is already an incipient development synthetic fuel for aviation, whose electrification is currently impossible.
Synthetic fuels (methane, kerosene, or methanol) are products in gaseous or liquid form that are produced using only renewable or decarbonized (nuclear) electricity. Taking into account their entire production and use cycle, their carbon footprint must be neutral compared to that of traditional petroleum-derived fuels and they can even use CO2 as a raw material.
An alternative method of producing synthetic crude oil is the coelectrolysis of water and CO2 at high temperature. By not requiring the contribution of renewable hydrogen, the use of CO2 would in theory simplify its manufacture, which is considered to reduce production costs by a third. However, the technology is not yet very mature and most of the initial projects are still opting for the production of hydrogen by low-temperature electrolysis in its first phase. The first factory in the world that produces synthetic fuels will start operating next month in Chile, driven by the German manufacturer Porsche. The “Highly Innovative Fuels” factory will produce the first 130,000 liters of e-fuel from completely renewable energy.
About 210 euros the deposit
The environmental organization Transport & Environment (T&E) has warned that the synthetic fuels that the German government is asking to include in the framework of the negotiations for the ban on the sale of combustion vehicles in the European Union by 2035 would increase the average cost of fill a deposit up to 210 euros.
According to an analysis by T&E, synthetic gasoline could cost more than 2.80 euros per liter in 203050% more than current normal gasoline, due to its “complex production process”, which consumes “a lot of energy”.
Thus, the organization’s calculations suggest that refueling with synthetic gasoline would cost an average driver at least 2,300 euros a year.
In addition, the organization has emphasized that allowing the sale of combustion cars with this type of synthetic fuel beyond 2035 “would displace the sales of up to 46 million electric cars zero emissions by 2050”.
Their analysis also indicates that cars running on synthetic fuels could emit up to 160,000 additional tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOX) in the EU by 2050, that is, “more toxic emissions than the Italian car fleet in a whole year”. , according to the calculations of the entity.
From hydrogen and CO2
However, from the energy companies involved in the production of this type of “eco” fuels they defend that the price will decrease as production and demand increase, coming to be equated with the current prices of gasoline.
synthetic fuels are made from hydrogen and CO2 removed from the atmosphere. For its preparation, electricity from renewable sources is used and through electrolysis, the oxygen and hydrogen are separated from the water, giving rise to renewable hydrogen. Energy companies and automobile manufacturers such as Porsche, Audi or Mazda defend this alternative. According to his calculations, it allows the emissions of a thermal car to be reduced by up to 90% during its use, while avoiding the pollution generated by producing a new vehicle and its corresponding battery.
As for ecofuels, they are liquid fuels that are neutral or low in CO2 emissions produced from urban waste, agricultural or forestry, from plastics to used oils. They are not made with petroleum.
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