While politics are still mainly focusing on the electrification of transport, an increasing number of environment-friendly fuels are proving their worth in practice. Here are a few examples.

Photo credit: CAC

Porsche, the e-fuels pioneer

In a hitherto unique plant, the sports car manufacturer, which is part of the VW Group, is seeking to produce climate-neutral fuel from wind power, water and CO2 at the “Haru Oni” e-fuels plant near the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas.

MAN Energy Solutions has already completed the methanol synthesis unit for the e-fuels pilot plant for producing the synthetic fuels and delivered it to Chile. The reactor will produce up to 750 tons of green methanol per year from wind power, much of which will be converted into climate-neutral petrol. Production is set to start in autumn 2022. During the pilot phase, around 130,000 litres of e-fuels will initially be produced. By the middle of the decade, it is intended to gradually increase capacity to an industrial scale.

It is already scheduled to use the e-fuels for the first time in motor racing this year and prove their worth in practice here.

Swiss uses solar aviation fuel

The Swiss airline Swiss and the Lufthansa Group have agreed on a strategic cooperation programme with Synhelion for introducing solar fuel on to the market. This will make Swiss the world’s first airline to use so-called sun-to-liquid fuel. Synhelion has developed key technology for the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) from renewable energies. The process uses concentrated solar heat to produce synthesis gas, from which CO2-neutral kerosene is subsequently synthesised in standard industrial processes.

With backing by Swiss and the Lufthansa Group, Synhelion plans to develop a commercial fuel facility in Spain.

Chip fat etc.

At the BP refinery in Lingen in Emsland, the mineral oil and energy group BP began producing aviation fuel with proportions of used cooking oil. According to company statements, BP is aiming for a global market share of 20 per cent in sustainable aviation fuel. Paraffin with five per cent bio content is approved for aviation without any shortfalls in performance and safety.

Fuel from wood

Researchers at the Straubing Campus for Biotechnology and Sustainability at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a new process for producing ethanol in cooperation with the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT) in Finland. This uses forestry residues in conjunction with hydrogen. The hydrogen is to be produced by breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen with the aid of electricity – in other words, by water electrolysis. In the future, excess electricity – for example from wind power plants – can be used for the production of ethanol.

The researchers also assessed economic feasibility. The findings showed that the lowest costs for ethanol in the models amounted to 0.65 Euros per litre with biomass costs of 20 Euros per megawatt hour, electricity costs of 45 Euros per megawatt hour and a production volume of approximately 42 kilotons of ethanol per year. This means that ethanol from lignocellulose can genuinely compete with the current production options.

Acid test on the Nürburgring circuit

For the first time, the “TGR-E United” team will be lining up for the ADAC TotalEnergies 24h race on the Nürburgring with a vehicle that has climate-friendly and almost CO2-neutral synthetic fuel in its tank instead of fossil fuel. The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe employees’ team will be using a GR Supra GT4 that has been developed at the motor sport headquarters in Cologne and is equipped with a near-series three-litre six-cylinder engine specially optimised for motor sport use and delivering 320 kW (430 hp).

The new technology will be subjected to an ultimate acid test during the endurance classic in the Eifel: a 24-hour chase at full throttle on the most demanding racetrack in the world.

Dirk Wullenweber, project manager of “Race2efuels” and head of Marketing & Trade of the LOTHER Group (owner of NORDOEL service stations) explains the major advantage of the synthetic fuel “Racing eFuels 98” of the “Race2efuels” project: “it can be directly used in any internal combustion engine that otherwise calls for premium petrol. This makes use of the existing service station infrastructure for a mineral oil-free, virtually CO2-neutral and thus climate-friendly fuel.

This REACH-certified synthetic petrol is produced by Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz (CAC) in cooperation with Freiberg Mining Academy and Technical University. Here, CAC and the Technical University operate Europe’s largest demonstration plant with a theoretical production capacity of one million litres per year. Around 46,000 litres of the synthetic fuel were made available to car and motorbike manufacturers for test bench trials as well as fleet trials and were evaluated positively across the board. Now the fuel is to show at the world’s toughest endurance race, the 24h Nürburgring, that it can easily cope with a thoroughly hard ride and prove its fatigue resistance.