Synthetic Fuels: A BETTER Alternative To Electric Cars?
People are saying that we dont need electric cars. All we have to do is invest in this great new co2, neutral fancy, pants next generation, petrol and all of our environmental and transport issues will be solved. I see it all the time in the comments it seems like people really believe that this is the way forward. Some people dont like electric cars, they dont want to let go of petrol and they see this as the solution now. Ive done a video on synthetic fuels in the past, but i wanted to revisit. The topic were currently doing even on the channel, which is our evie only month in 2021. Music. And i think that now is the perfect time to break down whether it has potential to work against or even work with, electric cars or, if its actually just a complete distraction. So in order to understand synthetic fuels and why they might be needed. We first need to understand fossil fuels and the issues associated with using fossil fuels. The way the internal combustion engine works is that they need hydrocarbons and we get this from crude oil stored beneath the surface of the earth. Oil companies will pump it and then refine it and then send it to a petrol station where youll put it into your car. Your engine will burn it and that process of combustion releases hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, plus a bunch of other bad stuff like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and ozone into the atmosphere.
How much well quite a lot every single liter you burn in your car produces a lot of co2. Every liter of petrol produces 2.37 kilograms of co2. Every liter of diesel makes 2.72 kilograms. I did some maps and my bmw x5, which lets say, has an 83 liter fuel tank makes 226 kilograms of co2 per tank. If i do 400 miles on a tank and 10 000 miles a year, thats around 25 tankfuls thats five and a half tons of co2i pump into the atmosphere and thats just me: theres around 1.5 billion cars in the world, so the amount of co2 being pumped Into the environment is quite substantial, why is that a problem? Well its an issue because the more we drive, the more we burn and the more co2 gets trapped in the environment. Now, when you have too much carbon in the atmosphere it traps heat, causing the planet to become warmer than it otherwise might be naturally thats what they call global warming. Now the vast majority of climate scientists will agree that there is a link between the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increasing temperatures. Increased temperatures leads to guess what climate change and its not even up for debate. This is the reason that almost all of the worlds leaders right now are in scotland, at cop26, trying to dream up new ways to reduce our carbon footprint. So could synthetic fuels be one way of helping us out of this situation? Well, these fuels work a bit differently to fossil fuels instead of taking hydrocarbons, i.
e, hydrogen and carbon from crude oil. Beneath the surface it uses a process that combines hydrogen harvested from water with carbon thats been extracted from the air. You refine that into fuel either diesel or petrol, and then you pump it into your car and bobs your uncle synthetic fuel. Now that still emits co2 into the atmosphere during combustion, but because youre taking co2 from the air youre not necessarily putting more co2 into the atmosphere, because youre, theoretically just borrowing some from here, burning it and then putting it back, i.e its a sustainable solution. So how do you make synthetic fuel well nothings, free in this world, so you need quite a lot of electricity thats, the key ingredient believe it or not. Basically, you use an electrolyzer, which is a gadget that uses electricity to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen in a process called electrolysis. Now you got your hydrogen, you need carbon and theres a bunch of different ways you can capture carbon, one of which is a technique called direct air capture dumbing. This down massively. This uses machines to act like a massive air dehumidifier now with a dehumidifier moist air goes in water, gets, captured and then dry air comes out, but with direct air capture for co2, the process sucks air in captures the co2 and then pure air comes out. However, just like your dehumidifier needs electricity to run so does your co2 capture device just like we need electricity to make hydrogen remember once youve got your co2 and your hydrogen captured using electricity lets not forget, guess what you need next, more electricity electrolysis is used again To combine co2 with the hydrogen to create synthetic methanol which you can effectively turn into synthetic diesel and petrol.
So its quite an energy intensive process and whats very important to remember is that the very point of synthetic fuels is for them to be carbon, neutral and sustainable. Remember the global warming thing that i talked about a couple of minutes ago: thats what were trying to fix right, less carbon in the atmosphere, so all of those crazy amounts of electricity required to make this stuff has to be guess what carbon neutral, if youre, using Dirty electricity to make dirty fuel and remember synthetic fuel is still dirty because you burn it and it emits co2 during combustion, then its a complete waste of time you might as well just use crude oil. Now, a few of you in the comments might quite rightly ask if this is a bit hypocritical, because we still use in a lot of cases, dirty electricity to charge up our electric cars. But its worth me saying, by the way that electric cars can still be greener than petrol cars, even if the electricity they use comes from fossil fueled power plants and thats, because even if you make electricity from lets say coal, which generates co2, the cars themselves. Dont put any new co2 into the air theres, just one source with e fuels. If you make synthetic fuel using electricity from coal, then you generate co2 in that process and then you still make co2. When you burn it in your car with evs, you might involve co2 at the beginning, but theres no co2.
At the end, if youre making synthetic fuels, you always have co2 at the end, so its pointless having co2 at the beginning, it would be a complete waste of time. With all that in mind, we cant really use the grid in europe or america or most other places on the planet. For that matter, to make synthetic fuel you need a place where you can create an abundance of carbon neutral electricity. You need a place with a lot of wind or a lot of waves or a lot of solar, and one place that has all of that in abundance is whales only joking, no chile, south america. There are two issues here, though, first of all not everybody lives. In chile i dont so once we create the synthetic fuel, we need some way of getting it from chile or wherever to north america or europe or wherever the synthetic fuel is actually required, and the second issue is: can chile or other places in the world where You can generate renewable energy in large amounts, produce enough synthetic fuel to keep every single car on the planet running ill answer. The first question to transport fuel from chile, youre gon na need a big ship and ships are one of the most polluting things on the planet. So uh. I guess i guess. Oh, no, you could run the ship on synthetic fuel, so thats one problem potentially solved, but then the second problem remains right.
Is there enough synthetic fuel to go around no its? The short answer now, as ive reported in my previous video on synthetic fuels, porsche is working with a group of other companies to create a decent amount of this stuff. Theyve got a lot of people very excited by the prospect too, and they have a facility in chile. Now they say that the first trial output wont be until 2022, but production will reach 55 million liters by 2024 and half a billion liters by 2026.. It might sound like quite a lot, but its literally nothing. The uk alone consumes 45 to 50 billion liters of fuel a year, america, 467 billion liters a year. As for the rest of the world, crazy amounts porsche. Producing half of one billion is useless to everybody except porsche. Their idea lets be clear: isnt to save the internal combustion engine, its to save their internal combustion engines and only in their old cars. They want a way to keep customers old 911s running at the porsche experience centers and in various race series involving their cars, so basically its just not enough to go around not for everyone, and even if all the big players get involved, shell, exxon, mobil, texaco, etc, Etc, even if all of them wanted to switch from fossil fuels to synthetic fuels, the size of the undertaking would be massive, and i really cant see there being enough places on the planet that can produce the whopping amounts of renewable energy required to produce the whopping Amounts of synthetic fuel required by the whopping amounts of cars that we drive and the giant boats that we need to transport them across the world on the planet.
Even if there was, we still need electricity for other things, like your laptop that youre watching this on. So will synthetic fuels save petrol engines in cars? The answer, unfortunately, is no only for a very small number of cars and only the ones with porsche badges on the front. But what about for other types of transport, like the ships that i mentioned earlier, maybe for planes now that that might be worth considering? According to a study, commercial airlines worldwide consume around 100 billion gallons of fuel a year around covid times. It was a lot less. Around 57 billions of fuel was consumed. If porsche reckon they can make half a billion liters. Then maybe if everybody else in the world club together, somehow maybe its feasible, that we could, as human beings create the 100 billion or 57 billion gallons, that we need of carbon neutral synthetic fuel needed to run commercial airlines right well, probably not and thats down to The fact theres another problem with synthetic fuels in case you hadnt, realized its really inefficient, remember youre, using clean electricity to make hydrogen and then using more electricity to capture co2 and then using more electricity to combine that hydrogen and co2 and then youre effectively wasting. All of that electricity in the process, because, right at the beginning of the process, guess what you made: hydrogen, which is quite a useful form of energy. Why not just use that in a fuel cell to power your plane or your ship, instead of wasting the extra energy with unnecessary steps and then ending up with a fuel at the end that youre going to end up burning and then pumping more co2 back into The atmosphere thats the thing we wanted to avoid in the first place right, but if you stopped at hydrogen right near the beginning and then use that in a fuel cell to power your plane or your train or your ship, then you end up with zero emissions.
At the start, and at the end i dont want to rain on anybodys parade here, but synthetic fuels lets face. It are not coming to save us from electric cars not happening. They might help preserve the handful of ice cars that we want to save from extinction. If they have a porsche badge on the front but thats about it, sorry right. I hope that you learned something new today, any questions drop them down below in the comments and if there are any other topics that you want me to cover at some point in a future explainer, then let me know maybe hydrogen right literally any aspect of the Automotive, industry and sustainability – let me know i know its confusing but ill try and get to the bottom of it.