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Bosch study highlights potential of e-fuels to reduce CO2 emissions

22 August 2017

According to a new study by Bosch, the use of e-fuels—synthetic fuels based on renewable energy—in Europe by 2050 as a scheduled supplement to electrification could save up to 2.8 gigatons of CO2: three times Germany’s carbon-dioxide emissions in 2016.

The calculation is based on an assumed e-fuels blend of 1% in 2025, 10% in 2030, 40% in 2040 and completely replacing the fossil fuel share by 2050.


Top: Threefold pathway to a de-fossilized powertrain. Bottom: Fuel pathways. Source: Bosch. Click to enlarge.

If the climate targets set by the Paris conference are to be achieved, CO2 emissions from traffic worldwide will have to be reduced 50% over the next four decades, and by at least 85% in the advanced economies, Bosch notes.

Achieving our future climate targets calls for other intelligent solutions apart from electromobility.

—Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH

Even if all cars were to drive electrically one day, aircraft, ships, and even trucks will still run mainly on fuel. Carbon-neutral combustion engines that run on synthetic fuels are thus a very promising path to explore—including for passenger cars. In addition, synthetic fuels can be designed to burn practically soot-free. In this way, the cost of exhaust-gas treatment can be reduced, Bosch adds.

A further advantage is that the existing filling-station network can continue to be used. The same applies to the existing combustion-engine expertise. Moreover, even though electric cars will become significantly less expensive in the years ahead, the development of these fuels may be worthwhile. Bosch has calculated that, up to a lifetime mileage of 160,000 kilometers, the total cost of ownership of a hybrid running on synthetic fuel could be less than that of a long-range electric car, depending on the type of renewable energy used.

It is already possible to manufacture synthetic fuels; Audi’s e-fuels initiative provides an example. (Earlier post.) If the electricity used is generated from renewables (and thus CO2-free), such fuels are carbon-neutral and very versatile. The hydrogen that is initially produced can be used to power fuel cells, while the fuels created following further processing can be used to run combustion engines or aircraft turbines. Pilot projects to commercialize synthetic diesel, gasoline, and gas are currently underway in Norway and Germany.

In addition, because synthetic fuels are compatible with the existing infrastructure and engine generation, achieving a high degree of market penetration would take far less time than electrifying the existing vehicle fleet. Nor will anything change for the drivers of older vehicles, as even classic cars will still run on synthetic gasoline.

At the moment, producing synthetic fuels is expensive. However, a production ramp-up and favorable electricity prices could mean that synthetic fuels become significantly cheaper. Present studies suggest that the fuel itself (excluding any excise duties) could cost between €1.00 and €1.40/liter (US$4.47 to $6.25/gallon US) in the long run.


August 22, 2017 in Emissions, Fuels, Power-to-Gas, Power-to-Liquids, Solar fuels | Permalink | Comments (11)


I figured synthetic and bio synthetic would become part of our future.

Their energy density and storability demand that they are part of the energy future.

If we can master compact SOFC then they could be used at very high efficiency with tiny levels of pollution in cars and other vehicles too.

"..aircraft, ships, and even trucks will still run mainly on fuel."

I could see ships and trucks using alternatives, but commercial passenger aircraft will need fuel. Cellulose gasified then synthesized to kerosene is a good option. It has MUCH less sulfur so the turbines may need less maintenance.

Burning bio fuels in the air still produces air pollution just as diesel or gasoline does. Only the amounts and particulars of what chemicals are produced vary.

A better solution for airplanes and gross polluting ships is burning hydrogen directly in turbines or using Hydrogen fuel cells to create electricity to drive electric ducted fans on aircraft and electric motor powered screws on ships. In both, the pollution is mostly water.

The 'amount and particulars' of the chemicals emitted are pretty important!

And to the extent that SOFCs can be used, they are virtually eliminated, as they are not combusted.

"...directly in turbines.."
Ever hear of NOx? That is the pollution that creates ozone and smog, at 30,000 feet it is even worse.

Burning hydrogen in turbines creates mostly water; using hydrogen in FCs creates only water. Burning bio-fuel creates carbon pollutants.

No, 80% of the air is nitrogen, gas turbines run 1000F+ you still have massive amounts of NOx. You think you are going to run LH2 in jets? Take a look at the weight, costs and lack of infrastructure. You STILL create LOTS of NOx at 30,000 feet elevation.

BTW, the CO2 released with bio fuels is BIO carbon NOT fossil carbon, it is the CO2 the plant absorbed while growing, no extra fossil fuel carbon added to the atmosphere.

This is even more subterfuge to allow the fossil petroleum going into the system to be made indistinguishable from the "green" fuel and keep the fossil interests fat and happy.

The only way out of this is to have a clean break, with something like renewable methanol sourced from biomass and no mixing with petroleum.  Use pure methanol with something like propane as the "starter fluid" for cold starts, so there's no route to substitute petroleum into the system.

Methanol burns fine in gas turbines, so the methanol system can be ramped up by using any excess as reserve fuel for gas turbine electric plants.  You can even recycle turbine exhaust heat to crack MeOH into CO and H2, which has more energy than the liquid.

Interesting assumptions:

1) BEVs market ramp up from 2015 or so.
2) FCEVs leave niche by 2025 or so.
3) BEVs and FCEVs coexist/compete by 2035 or so.

German industries may very be the leaders for cleaner biofuels development and production.

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