Porsche is launching electric cars, but the automaker is still looking for ways to keep internal-combustion engines from extinction. It now claims synthetic fuels could make internal-combustion cars as clean as EVs.
Synthetic fuels will deliver an 85% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions, Dr. Frank Walliser, Porsche vice president of motorsport and GT cars, told British car magazine Evo at the launch of the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 sports car. From a “well to wheels” perspective, that will equal lower emissions than an electric car, once emissions from manufacturing are factored in, Walliser said.
A synthetic fuel should be ready for testing in 2022, Walliser said, adding that this fuel could be used in all of Porsche’s current internal-combustion engines without modifications.
The idea of a synthetic fuel that could at least be carbon neutral has been around a long time, but has gained traction recently as automakers are faced with the real prospect of eliminating gasoline engines from their cars.
1950 Porsche 356 and 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
BMW invested in synthetic-fuel startup Prometheus Fuels in 2020, while McLaren COO Jens Ludmann has said the company will test synthetic fuels, calling them a more practical way to reduce emissions than batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.
Automakers like Porsche and McLaren (and, to a lesser extent, BMW) have built their reputation on performance cars with charismatic gasoline engines. So perhaps it’s not surprising that they are hesitant to abandon internal combustion.
Synthetic fuels haven’t shown much promise so far, however. Audi has produced small amounts of synthetic diesel, but even that was an inefficient use of energy. Improvements in battery energy density and decreases in cost have further eroded any advantage synthetic fuels might have had in the early stages of both technologies.
With gasoline-vehicle bans in California and elsewhere expected in the 2030s, though, perhaps synthetic fuels could help phase out gasoline? If they can ever be commercialized, that is.