Bosch Promotes Synthetic ICE Fuel as EV Alternative

Bosch is lauding the benefits of renewable synthetic fuels against the dubious climate credentials of current EV technology.

In news that will gladden the hearts of ICE powertrain fans, the Germany automotive supplies giant extols the virtues of combustible fuel from sustainable sources over the often-ignored CO₂ costs to global warming of developing and deploying BEV powertrains. It points out that electrified powertrains are only as free from emissions as the energy sources they draw on which, globally, remains at more than 70% of the electricity created by burning fossil fuels.

Its alternative path to meeting Paris Agreement targets to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, lies with renewable synthetic fuels. In a statement just released it lists seven convincing reasons for steering our vehicles towards renewable synthetic fuels:

  1. Renewable synthetic fuels are now ready mass production processes. Firstly, they apply electricity generated from renewable sources to obtain hydrogen from water then carbon is added. Finally, they combine CO₂ and H₂ to make synthetic gasoline, diesel, gas, or kerosene. However, production and government authorities could use incentives, as they have done with EV, that could come from fuel quotas, offsetting CO₂ savings against fleet consumption, and long-term planning certainty.
  2. The fuels can claim climate neutrality being made exclusively from renewable sources such as the sun or wind. In the best-case scenario, manufacturers can capture the CO₂ needed to produce this fuel from the surrounding air, turning a greenhouse gas into a resource. Vehicles on the road, when powered by synthetic fuel, would then be climate-neutral.
  3. Thanks to the Fischer-Tropsch production process for renewable synthetic fuels, they are completely compatible with today’s existing service station infrastructure and vehicle ICE powertrains. As a halfway house while manufacturing is growing, the fuels can also be added to conventional fuel to help reduce CO₂ emissions from current and even historic vehicles.
  4. While costs of production are presently high for the fuels, this will reduce markedly with expanded production and lowering costs of electricity generated from renewable sources comes down. Bosch quotes studies suggesting that a pure fuel cost of between €1.20 ($1.30) and €1.40 ($1.50) a liter can be achieved, excluding any excise duties, by 2030, and as little €1 ($1.1) by 2050. While these figures won’t excite cheap gasoline countries like the US, they are not much more than current fuel costs in many European markets.
  5. The fuels will work where battery of hydrogen fuel cell powertrains cannot such as aircraft, ships, and parts of the heavy-goods transport sector will continue to rely on combustion engines.
  6. Unlike biofuels that rely on taking field space that could be used for much needed food supplies or made from a limited supply of degradable waste materials, synthetic renewal fuels can be produced in unlimited quantities worldwide to produce fuel that can then be stored and transported relatively easily.
  7. The production process for synthetic renewal fuels yields a gas or liquid, good mediums for storing and transporting large quantities without the energy leakage and continual degradation of batteries where energy can only be stored for short periods of time. Therefore, they can serve as a buffer for fluctuating solar or wind energy or to circumvent regional restrictions on the expansion of renewable energy production.

This final point highlights the fact that in Germany, a country where currently 60% of its electric energy comes from burning fossil fuels, does not enjoy the renewable energy production assets of other parts of the world. In this respect, those areas could produce the energy easier and cheaper, convert it to a liquid or gas, such as hydrogen, for transportation to power electric vehicles in Germany.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


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