1. The “e” in e-fuel is associated with electricity, but it is NOT an energy form suitable for electric vehicles (EVs).
Rather, e-fuels are synthetically produced alternatives to fossil fuels that are compatible with today’s internal combustion engines (ICEs). The “e” in e-fuel is a reference to the electricity needed to produce them. Unfortunately, this confusing nomenclature will likely contribute to unnecessary complexity.
2. E-fuels are not zero-emission fuels, but their utilization could lower emissions overall.
To create e-fuels, the chemical molecules that make up hydrocarbon fossil fuels are created synthetically through a combination of carbon capture, electrolysis and synthesis. Although e-fuels release tailpipe emissions when they are used in ICEs, they are considered CO2-neutral over their lifecycle because carbon dioxide is removed from the environment during production.
3. E-fuels pose several benefits to the environment, the fueling industry and consumers.
Because e-fuels can be used in ICEs or blended with existing petroleum products, they could accelerate decarbonization more rapidly than the transition to EVs. Additionally, they are compatible with existing fueling infrastructure. E-fuels also have a high energy density which is necessary for certain transportation applications such as aviation, rail and marine. Finally, e-fuels also sidestep an EV-related supply chain concern: sourcing and processing the raw materials needed to produce EV batteries.
4. E-fuel developers will need to overcome a few barriers before widespread expansion is possible.
The International Council on Clean Transportation estimated that e-fuels produced at a commercial scale would cost more than $25 a gallon. Additionally, renewable electricity, which is necessary for production of e-fuels, would also need to be scaled up, and the fuels would need to be produced efficiently.
5. The political climate for e-fuels is challenging, but not hopeless.
Globally, EV charging has received tremendous government support. Additionally, a trend to ban ICEs began in Europe and it spread to other areas of the world, including California. That notwithstanding, the European Union backed down on its ICE ban, allowing ICE vehicles to still be sold after 2035 if they are powered by net-zero fuels.
Learn more in this article from Reuters.