Synthetic fuels are presented as the solution to sustainably keep living internal combustion engines beyond 2035. However, a recent analysis by Transport & Environment, based on data provided by synthetic fuel manufacturers, shows that the chances of all of them using synthetic fuels by 2035 they are very low. only the two % of cars on Europe’s roads by 2035 will run on synthetic fuels.
It is known as gas either synthetic fuel to that which does not come from a fossil energy source. It is obtained from a chemical process based on hydrogen and the energy used is renewable. It is therefore a 100% clean fuel. Their higher energy density compared to electrochemical batteries means that they can be considered an alternative to these. With them, combustion engines could be considered carbon neutral.
Its manufacturing process captures COtwo instead of releasing it as this gas acts as raw material. The first step is to obtain hydrogen from water by electrolysis and then add COtwo to generate liquid fuel. This comes from recycling or by capturing it from the air through special filters. Combining both, synthetic fuel is obtained (methane, which can be gasoline, diesel, gas or kerosene.
Although it is difficult to know with certainty what will happen in 13 years, the authors of the analysis affirm that the manufacturers of these fuels will not be able to increase production at a level close to actual demand. The analysis focused on the suppliers of synthetic fuels in Europe including even those that are not manufactured without emissions. If only the latter existed, they would be even rarer.
The import of fuels from other regions will not be a solution that fits the demand, as the capacity to manufacture them in a climate-neutral way and transport them does not exist at this level. Furthermore, they say that attempting to do so would delay efforts to decarbonize developing countries.
According to estimates, by 2035 there would be enough production of synthetic fuels to supply five of the 287 million vehicles that will circulate on European roads. Although those 287 million vehicles will not be combustion vehicles, the remaining 282 million will not be electric vehicles either.
Neither variant will be feasible. The real picture will be very different. Yoann Gimbert, electric mobility analyst at Transport&Environment, assures that synthetic fuels are “the Trojan horse for the fossil fuel industry”because they are not really the solution to keep them alive beyond 2035 and trusting them will become a “betrayal”.
In addition, the analyst affirms that it would be better if they were planes and ships those that use these synthetic fuels, instead of automobiles, since these are sectors whose electrification is complex and they would help decarbonize them.