Porsche begins production of an “e-fuel” that could provide an alternative to gas in electric vehicle propulsion

Barbara Frenkel, member of the Executive Board for Porsche Purchasing, (left) and Michael Steiner, member of the Executive Board for Development and Research, fuel the 911 with e-fuel at a pilot plant, Punta Arenas, Chile.

Porsche AG

Porsche and several partners have started production of a climate-neutral “e-fuel” aimed at replacing petrol in vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines.

German automaker, previously owned VolkswagenOn Tuesday, he said that a pilot plant in Chile has begun commercial production of the alternative fuel. By the middle of the decade, Porsche plans to produce millions of gallons of e-fuel.

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Porsche expects to initially use the fuel in motorsport and performance experience centers, to be followed by other uses in the coming years. Ultimately, the plan is to sell the fuel to oil companies and others for distribution to consumers.

E-fuel is a type of synthetic methanol produced by a complex process using water, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The companies say it enables near-CO2-neutral operation of gas-powered engines. Vehicles will still need to use oil to lubricate the engine.

In the pilot phase, Porsche expects to produce around 130,000 liters (34,342 US gal) of e-fuel. Plans are to expand that to about 55 million liters (14.5 million US gal) by the middle of the decade, and to about 550 million liters (145.3 million US gal) about two years later.

The Chilean plant was initially announced with Porsche in late 2020, when the automaker said it would invest $24 million in plant and e-fuel development. Partners include the Chilean company Highly Innovative Fuels and the renewable energy unit of Siemens, among others.

Company officials say the e-fuel could behave like gasoline, giving vehicle owners a more environmentally friendly way to drive. They could also use the same fuel infrastructure as gas, compared to the billions of dollars in investment needed to build a network of charging stations for electric vehicles.

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But completely replacing traditional fossil fuels with e-fuels would be very difficult and expensive. In 2021, about 134.83 billion gallons of final motor gasoline were consumed in the United States, averaging about 369 million gallons per day, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

However, producing such a fuel would allow Porsche and others a way to continue producing cars like the popular Porsche 911 sports car with a conventional engine alongside or instead of a new electric model. While electric cars can deliver outstanding performance, the driving dynamics differ from conventional engines.

Porsche officials celebrated the start of e-fuel production by filling a Porsche 911 with the first synthetic fuel to be produced on site.

“The potential for eFuels is huge. There are currently more than 1.3 billion vehicles with combustion engines worldwide. Many will be on the roads for decades to come, and eFuels offer owners of existing vehicles a near-carbon-neutral alternative,” said Michael Steiner, Porsche R&D Director, in a statement.

Steiner and others emphasized Tuesday that the fuel development does not change the company’s plans to have 80% of its lineup made up of electric vehicles by 2030.

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