Porsche developing gasoline as clean as an electric car

The key is an understanding of the emissions related to so-called zero emission EVs.

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Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
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2 min read

While the world is in convulsions over how many cars will be electrified, some companies are working on a cleaner gasoline instead. Porsche eFuel is an example that's getting a lot of attention.

It may sound absurd to pursue a new kind of fuel to burn in the era of electrification, but Porsche is looking at how combustion can be made roughly as clean as the entire process of electric car transportation, including the often dirty generation of that power. eFuel aims to achieve an 85% reduction in carbon dioxide, which Porsche says is about the average reduction achieved with electric cars, though that number varies based on where you live and how your electricity is generated

Porsche E-fuel

It isn't just the paint that's green: Synthetic gasoline aims to reduce carbon emissions from driving by 85%.


To oversimplify, the eFuel process uses renewable energy to crack hydrogen from water and then move the hydrogen to a process that results in synthetic gasoline. It's not a new idea: The so-called Fischer-Tropsch process dates back to the early 1920s and is said to have accounted for 9% of Germany's military fuel use in World War II and 25% of civilian vehicle fuel use during that same period.

Porsche and partner Exxon are working with Siemens Energy to start production of eFuel adjacent to a wind farm at the tip of Chile in 2022. The first batch will only amount to around 34,000 gallons, ramping up to 145 million gallons made in 2026. Compare that to the 124 billion gallons of gas burned in US cars alone in 2020 and you get about 0.1% of the American gas pump market. A drop in the tank.

Porsche and Siemens Haru Oni e-fuel plant

Dubbed Haru Oni, this new eFuel plant will be erected in Chile to take advantage of the country's strong and steady wind energy.

Porsche/Siemens Energy

So who is eFuel for? Even Porsche will tell you electrification ranks higher than eFuel on its agenda, but it remains a product with legs. Combustion engine cars will take decades or even generations to leave the road, while traditional sports and racing cars may endure in niche perpetuity, along with the roughly 5 million collectible cars on the road. It's hard to imagine a company like Porsche turning its back on the combustion engine cars that built the brand and are the source of its legendary customer loyalty.

To be sure, at least one study decries eFuel as something of a boondoggle, saying it's neither clean enough nor likely affordable enough to win the day on climate correction. That said, it seems worth playing out as the replacement of the existing global combustion engine fleet is the elephant in the room of vehicle electrification.