Written by 11:00 am EU Investment

eFuel Alliance calls for EU rethink on fuels

The European Union has once again been criticised by the eFuel Alliance which has pointed out that its apparent desire to rid the roads of internal combustion engines is slowing down the transition away from fossil fuels.

The organisation, which is based in Berlin, Germany, lobbies on behalf of over 180 companies and other interested parties which support the use of synthetic fuels as a replacement for mineral oil-based products.

Delaying oil independence

In a recent statement, it noted that:

“The one-sided focus on electric cars is limiting the opportunities of a rapid, climate-friendly transformation of the transport sector as well as creating new dependencies, especially on China.”

It goes on to explain that switching to synthetic fuels, which can easily be produced from biomass, household waste and even old tyres, will accelerate the move towards a carbon-neutral future.

Electric vehicles EU cars
The demand for electric cars in Ireland may be increasing but it is far short of what the proponents had hoped for

However, the EU remains dismissive of the notion and has, according to the eFuel Alliance, ignored any possibility other than electric vehicles when setting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions targets from vehicle fleets.

Blinkered approach

Ralf Diemer, managing director of the eFuel Alliance, expressed his disappointment in the latest decision.

“We need a fleet regulation that makes openness to all technologies binding for the purpose of rapid defossilisation,” he said.

“In contrast, the outcome of the trilogue is one-sided and ignores options that are just as climate-friendly.”

Although not explicitly stated, Diemer highlights a major concern with the approach of the EU in that it only thinks of the issue in terms of battery versus oil, rather than taking a much more holistic approach and thinking of energy management as a whole.

Energy fuels grid
Neste from Finland is already supplying 20% of the country’s diesel produced from organic matter

Broadening the scope of the problem allows other solutions to be considered, hydrogen being one option and synthetic diesel, as proposed by the eFuel Alliance, being another.

Case New Holland is promoting a third option and that is a carbon-based fuel in the form of methane, both liquid and compressed, which sits somewhere between these two methods of energy management.

Further costs for renewables

A particular problem with both hydrogen and electricity is that a completely new distribution infrastructure needs to be built for the former, and a vastly expensive upgrade and expansion of the present grid will be needed for the latter, neither of which are environmentally friendly in their own right.

One analyst has noted that despite the drive to electrify transport in Germany, its grid structure grew by just 0.4% in capacity from 2020 to 2021. This is unlikely to be sufficient.

Electricity infrastructure vehicles
Energy harvested by turbines can be bottled as synthetic fuel

A 3.2 billion investment in Ireland’s grid is planned by EirGrid, but by how much that will increase capacity is not immediately apparent.

It is also likely that battery-powered cars will be competing with data centres for the electricity, if the forecast of the data farms absorbing up to 70% of Ireland’s power supply by 2030 turns out to be accurate.

Drop in replacement

One of the arguments of the eFuel Alliance is that synthetic fuels, which may also be produced from renewable energy, do away with the need to increase the grid structure as the distribution system is already in place and working well.

Energy storage, in the shape of diesel tanks, will also remain as it is and cars can continue to operate as they do now, but on a carbon-neutral basis.

This would appear to be a win-win situation, but the EU is not displaying any enthusiasm for the idea.

Fuels should compete

In the latest discussions in October, a proposal by the German FDP party to allow internal combustion engines driven by carbon neutral fuels to be sold after 2035, was adopted only as a recommendation and is not binding upon the commission.

Diemer also points to the importance of competition, asking, why does there need to be a ban on combustion-powered vehicles running on carbon-neutral fuels if electric cars are the answer, for surely the consumer will drift to the preferred option?

This is yet another question hanging over the switch to electric vehicles that has yet to be addressed properly. Amongst all the noise and various claims being made, few appear to have thought it through, least of all the politicians.

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