With plans to drastically cut emissions around the world in the next few decades,efuels are going to have a key role to play.
Governments around the world are embarking on ambitious plans to reduce emissions and de-carbonise their economies. While much of the media focus has been on electric propulsion for cars and commercial vehicles, other fuels are going to have a role to play; in particular, efuels created from renewable resources offer a carbon-neutral alternative to the use of fossil fuels.
This is going to have an impact not only on road vehicles but also across the whole transport sector, from rail to shipping and aviation.
What are E-Fuels?
The term efuels used to refer to gas or liquid fuels that can be used in place of conventional petrol or diesel but that have been created using renewable resources. This can encompass a number of different techniques.
Biofuel is created from plant or animal matter, otherwise known as biomass. This can be in the form of a liquid alternative to petrol and diesel or as a natural gas to be used in place of LPG. The first generation of biomass-derived fuels proved controversial in terms of land usage, as it was argued that it was using resources that might have been better used to grow food crops; indeed, the biomass used is edible in some cases. Later generations of biofuel are produced from waste materials, such as sewage, and from algal material.
The EU has already legislated to introduce E10 petrol – petrol including 10 per cent ethanol derived from biomass – in a bid to reduce emissions. This will be standard in the UK from 2021. Ethanol use will reduce CO2 emissions; however, there is some controversy here too. E10 efuel is less efficient and leads to higher fuel consumption, particularly in smaller capacity engines; what’s more, the ethanol content is damaging to some seals, plastics and metals. While most cars sold since 2011 will be fine, the use of E10 could spell problems for older vehicles and classics.
The idea of using hydrogen to fuel transport has been around for a long time. Used in fuel cells, it can enable vehicles to generate their own electrical propulsion power on the move. It can also be used in internal combustion engines.
Hydrogen fuel cells get around the problem of the long recharging time of battery cars, as refuelling is almost as easy as with petrol. On the downside, producing and storing hydrogen is energy-intensive and would require significant electricity-generating capacity from nuclear or other sources.
We are likely to see an increased use of biofuels, as these are relatively easy to introduce when blended with existing fossil fuels. Hydrogen offers more interesting long-term prospects and affordable hydrogen cars should be available by 2025; however, this will require a commitment to infrastructure, not only to generate the fuel but also to establish a refuelling infrastructure.
Nick is a content writer and very much interested in new findings in the automobile industry.