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Porsche pumps first synthetic fuel as Chilean plant finally starts production • InNewCL

Porsche pumps first synthetic fuel as Chilean plant finally starts production • InNewCL

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After years of promises and investments of millions, Porsche has today pumped the first liters of its fully synthetic fuel into a car. This car? A 911, of course.

Porsche has been talking about eFuels since 2020, when the company invested €20 million in a project with Siemens Energy to build a pilot plant in Punta Arenas, Chile. The home that Ferdinand built backed that up with another $75 million investment earlier this year, acquiring a 12.5 percent stake in HIF Global, the holding company for that eFuel production effort.

eFuels are intended to be CO2-neutral alternatives that allow older vehicles to continue to operate despite increasing restrictions on CO2 emissions from passenger cars. However, everything is theory at this point. While sales bans for vehicles with internal combustion engines are already in place in many places, starting in California and the EU from 2035, no exceptions for eFuels have yet been granted worldwide. The EU is planning a proposal for “carbon neutral fuels” and whether they can be exempted from this, but that may only apply to commercial vehicles.

Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board at Porsche, hopes that such an exemption would cover the use of eFuels in his company’s cars: “This is still a work in progress, but at least we expect to be able to use such eFuels in passenger cars, especially Porsches Cars. This is an expectation, but this is not finished today.”

Porsche refuels

Photo credit: Porsche

For the time being, Porsche’s eFuels will only be used off-road and will power the company’s worldwide Porsche SuperCup series. With Porsche rumored to be entering Formula 1 soon, and with that series set to transition to carbon-neutral fuels by 2026, it’s not hard to see potential there as well.

Why Chile? eFuels are heavily dependent on the splitting of water into its components: hydrogen and oxygen. To be carried out effectively, this electrolysis requires a lot of cheap electricity, which is provided in Chile by the constant, strong winds. Punta Arenas is considered the windiest area in South America, a force converted into electricity by Siemens Gamesa wind turbines.

The hydrogen from this process is then mixed with CO2 extracted from the air to create a form of methanol. This raw material can then be further refined into a variety of products, including the eFuels that Porsche uses to power its race cars today and hopes to keep its historic vehicles on the road in the future.

Porsche’s original plans called for 130,000 liters of the stuff by the end of 2022. Given the date and the size of the tank of this 911 (maximum 67 liters), it seems clear that the target will come later. Porsche’s next target is 55 million liters per year within the next three years. At that amount, Porsche’s Michael Steiner says production costs will drop to about $2 a liter.

Right now, average fuel prices in Germany are around $1.75 per liter, but that’s at the pump. Transportation, taxes and other fees will mean that eFuels will remain significantly more expensive than conventional fuels for some time to come, but their carbon-neutral nature can still make them attractive options for commercial applications.

“There are several initiatives around the world,” Steiner told me. “Some regions are looking for tax advantages, others for mixed quotas for different sectors. So it is still unclear which markets could be the cheapest for eFuels.”

One thing is clear: Despite the success of eFuels and exemptions for CO2-neutral combustion engines, Porsche is sticking to its goal of 80% EV sales by 2030.

“We have a clear strategy,” said Steiner. “The focus is on e-mobility, but we also take care of our ICE cars.” Porsche is of course a brand with a strong history. The 911 fueled up today was just one of over a million that Porsche has produced since 1963. Keeping them going is clearly a powerful incentive.

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