You don’t often see ‘exotic car brand’ and ‘eco-friendly’ in the same sentence together. Well, you didn’t, until Porsche came along.
The German performance car brand was of the first high-end carmakers to invest in electric vehicles, offering hybrids as early as 2010 with the Cayenne and shocking the world (pun intended) with their monstrous all-electric Taycan in 2019 – which now outsells the iconic 911.
Porsche’s march towards electrification continues, with the next-generation Macan planned to be totally electric. They even have aspirations to make a hybrid 911.
But Porsche also realises there’s a big chunk of their customer base who finds anything electric to be a total anathema… Which is why they’ve invested in a truly interesting enterprise that might just save the internal combustion-engined car as we know it.
Earlier this month, Porsche announced they’ve invested US$750 million and acquired a long-term stake in HIF Global, a Chilean company that develops synthetic climate-neutral fuel (eFuel) production facilities. Its most notable project is a pilot eFuel plant in Chile, which will produce eFuels from hydrogen and CO2 using wind energy, starting in mid-2022.
If successful, it’ll be the world’s first integrated, commercial, industrial-scale plant for making eFuel. Which is good news for ICEs.
The process works like this: to generate green hydrogen, electrolyzers use wind power (of which windswept Chile has plenty) to dissociate water into its two components, oxygen and hydrogen. Then, you filter CO2 out of the air and then combine it with the green hydrogen to form synthetic methanol.
The result is e-methanol, which can be converted into climate-friendly fuel or used in a myriad of applications, such as in the chemical industry, where it can replace raw materials of fossil origin. But we care more about the former. Essentially, these electricity-based synthetic fuels enable nearly-CO2-neutral operation of combustion engines. Guilt-free motoring, baby!
Because the elephant in the room is this: even if everyone starts buying only EVs tomorrow, we’re still going to have a lot of ICEs on the roads for a long time to come. eFuels will allow us to have a smoother transition to total electrification – and supports vehicles that are as of yet infeasible to electrify with current technology.
And as much as we love seeing classic cars get a new lease on life through EV conversions, eFuel would allow classic car owners to preserve the purity of their pride and joys.
Porsche and HIF Global also plan to develop further industrial eFuel facilities in Chile, the US and Australia, which all have large supplies of renewable energy.
Porsche initially plans to use the eFuel from Chile in motorsport flagship projects – for example, Porsche entered a pair of new 718 Cayman GT4 RSes powered by synthetic fuel into the recent GP Ice Race in Zell am See, Austria. Porsche has also suggested that they could use eFuel to fuel the company’s own vehicles with combustion engines during initial fuelling at the factory.
We’re probably a long way away from seeing eFuels pumped at bowsers alongside or instead of fossil fuels. Still, it’s an exciting prospect.