Frequently asked questions
There are plenty of questions about the new eFuels. We have answered the most important ones here:
eFuels are synthetically produced liquid fuels based on hydrogen and CO2. By using CO2 from the atmosphere and renewable energies, eFuels can be produced in a climate-neutral manner.
eFuels are produced from hydrogen which is extracted from water via electrolysis. The renewable electricity that is required for this process comes from wind and solar power plants. In the Fischer-Tropsch process, hydrogen is synthesised into a liquid fuel through CO2 that’s been taken from the atmosphere (power-to-liquid process).
eFuels have the same chemical properties as conventional fuels such as kerosene, petrol or diesel – and can completely replace them. Just like these fuels, eFuels have the highest energy density of all fuels.
Since the electricity used to produce eFuels comes from renewable energy sources (e.g. wind, solar or hydroelectric power), eFuels are climate-neutral. In addition, only natural resources such as water and CO2 from the atmosphere are used.
eFuels can both be added to conventional fuels or can completely replace them.
Since the use of eFuels does not require any engines or systems to be converted, the 20,000 airplanes, 50,000 ships and more than 1.3 billion vehicles in existence today can continue to be used in the future in a climate-neutral manner that would otherwise not be possible. This also applies to around 20 million heating systems that run on liquid fuels. The essential logistics distribution and fuelling infrastructure already in place can continue to be operated in an economically efficient manner with eFuels. This does not change anything for consumers: the quick and safe supply and delivery of fuel they’re used to remains the same.
Until now a lack of regulatory incentives have prevented a market ramp-up of eFuels that would allow sufficient capacity and economies of scale to be achieved. Research and development as well as mechanical and plant engineering capabilities have long reached the stage where eFuels can be produced on an industrial scale. Putting this to use will be an important step in defending Europe’s leading position in the international technology race and preventing it from losing ground.
In looking at various pilot projects and prototype plants as examples, it’s clear that the full potential of eFuels can be quickly realised with the right political decisions. This requires a framework that recognises the climate policy benefits of eFuels, promotes their use in practice and provides incentives for further investment in the expansion of relevant facilities.
The prospects for large-scale industrial production of eFuels depend heavily on the political and regulatory framework. eFuels have been extensively researched and the technical conditions are in place to allow the construction of large-scale industrial plants in the medium term. However, this will only happen if there is security for investors in this sector, and an openness to technology among policy makers that permits a level playing field for the use of innovative climate protection technologies. Production could be on stream as early as 2025.
An infinite amount of renewable energy is available throughout the world – especially in sunny and windy regions. To achieve the climate protection goals – limiting global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions – every type of technological option that exploits renewable energies must be applied. In the transport sector, for example, widely differing factors have to be taken into account: the need for passenger and freight transport, for long and short haul travel, for different types of journeys, for the use of vehicles with different lifecycles, for travel requiring different types of infrastructure. Each requires suitable solutions that contribute to climate protection. A single technology will not provide a global solution for all needs.
With eFuels, renewable energies in the form of liquid synthetic energy carriers can be stored easily, simply transported through existing means and thus used worldwide. eFuels can make a contribution to reducing CO2 wherever conventional fuels are used. They can thus make a global contribution to implementing the energy transition to renewable energies in various sectors.
Hydrogen and hydrogen-based derivative products are already receiving a lot of political and public attention. The potential of these products – and the associated value-added chains – is being viewed increasingly positively from a climate and economic policy perspective. The European Commission has clearly expressed this in its hydrogen strategy, the European industrial strategy and in the Post-Corona Recovery Programme 2020. The German government has made the same statement with its National Hydrogen Strategy.
The sooner the appropriate framework conditions for recognising and using synthetic fuels are created, the sooner eFuels can be produced on an industrial scale and new global economic relationships can be established to support output. Ultimately, this will lead to a market expansion for eFuels. Europe can thus achieve its desired climate neutrality and maintain its competitiveness.
If production facilities for eFuels were to be set up now, the first quantities of climate-neutral fuels would be available as early as 2025. By 2050, conventional fuels could be completely replaced. Any delay to the roll out of eFuels threatens the prospects of the 2050 climate protection target being achieved. It is already clear that in Germany, where the current electricity mix will rely on a high proportion of fossil fuels until 2038, direct electricity usage alone cannot be the answer to achieving separate climate protection targets set for 2030.
No. This debate misses the core of the problem that needs to be tackled – and loses sight of the real goal of greenhouse gas reduction and climate protection. Both technologies can make a meaningful contribution to this; they should be promoted accordingly and not played off against each other. Neither one nor the other will serve as the magic bullet for achieving all our environmental and climate goals. Only a technologically open approach will lead to the greatest possible success – all the while promoting innovation and competition.
For example, there are fields such as air traffic or heavy goods transport over long distances which, technically, are virtually impossible to electrify. By using eFuels, this existing fleet can be made climate-neutral, too. This would particularly help lower-income households make a contribution to climate protection without incurring additional conversion costs. We therefore see the use of eFuels as complementary to e-mobility, not incompatible with it.
Large quantities of green hydrogen – and thus also regenerative energies – are required for the widespread use of eFuels. It seems unlikely that this demand can be met in Germany and Europe alone, if only because of the geography of our continent. The current and future electricity generated in Europe from renewable energies will be required for use predominantly in the industrial sector and in private households.
With eFuels, the unlimited availability of solar and wind energy can be exploited around the globe. That’s because the production and use of renewable electricity can be physically separated and continuous availability of renewable energy can be guaranteed.
The EU alone will not be able to combat climate change and the ever-increasing demand for renewable energies. We need a global consensus in the fight against climate change. It is right that the EU should place this issue at the centre of its actions and consistently push forward. At the same time, however, we need close international cooperation. This allows us, for example, to set up production facilities where, due to an abundance of sun or wind, it actually makes economic sense to do so.
We should not make renewable energies unnecessarily scarce because we want to produce them exclusively in Europe. This not only brings the danger of conflict arising between different sectors over distribution issues, but also stands in the way of effective global climate protection. Energy partnerships or cooperation in international organisations can also ensure that no dependency issues arise.
The use of renewable energies and the global production of climate-neutral products in regions with high levels of wind and sun also has a development policy perspective. These regions can not only develop and build their own climate-neutral energy infrastructure, but also generate new sources of income as energy-exporting countries. At the same time, a holistic approach presents the opportunity for European companies to enter new markets with innovative technologies.
Moreover, a change in energy use can also prevent the destabilisation of countries that are phasing out oil use.
The efficiency of synthetic fuels is currently being debated in detail. By using direct electricity, a battery-powered electric car has a higher degree of efficiency than a combustion engine driven by eFuels.
However, this perspective is misleading. What is critical for global energy transition is not the degree of efficiency of electricity’s end usage, but how efficiently electricity can be produced from renewable energies, and then made usable.
The usage efficiency shows that battery-powered electric vehicles are almost on a par with eFuels vehicles (12.5% vs. 11.3% and 12.6% respectively) if the eFuels come from regions where large amounts of climate-neutral electricity are available:
eFuels as eDiesel, ePetrol, eHeating oil and eKerosene will always be affordable for the end consumer. By using eFuels at first as a supplement to conventional fuel, higher initial production costs can be absorbed. Once large-scale industrial production has started and economies of scale have been achieved, the cost of eFuels will fall. At the same time, the proportion of admixture can be continuously increased.
The production costs of eFuels will therefore decline sharply in the foreseeable future; it can be assumed that the production costs in 2050 will be less than EUR 1. For filling station customers, this means that in 2050 eDiesel will cost between EUR 1.38 and EUR 2.17 (based on current taxes and duties). In 2050, the price of ePetrol will be between EUR 1.45 and EUR 2.24 (also based on current taxes and duties) (Source: Prognos AG, Fraunhofer UMSICHT and DBFZ (2018): Status and perspectives of liquid energy sources in the Energy transition).
In addition, politicy makers have numerous levers (e.g. the energy tax) to make the use of eFuels even more attractive.
The use of eFuels is just as safe as the use of conventional petrol, diesel or heating oil. Like conventional fuels, eFuels can be stored and transported safely at room pressure and temperature and are therefore less dangerous than other energy carriers. eFuels require no additional safety precautions as compared to existing conventional fuels.
Anyone who drives with an internal combustion engine using eFuels instead of petrol, diesel or kerosene will emit no more CO2 than was taken from the atmosphere earlier to produce the eFuels. In the long term and globally, this represents significant climate relief providing additional CO2 is not continually generated elsewhere.
eFuels can be used in conventional internal combustion engines or modern oil-fired heating systems, which are usually operated with petrol, kerosene, diesel or heating oil. A conversion procedure is not necessary and the same vehicles and heating systems could also be used in future.
We see road traffic – and especially shipping and air traffic – as future areas for eFuels: after all, for aircraft and ships there is no sensible technical alternative in sight as a means of propulsion.
eFuels can be used in modern and efficient oil-powered condensing boilers without modifications to the heating system or the building.
Greenhouse gases are produced locally, but they have global effects and change the world’s climate. It is therefore crucial that a technology has a climate-friendly balance in its overall CO2 balance – from production to use and then disposal. Judged over this lifecycle and with a holistic approach, the CO2 balance of commercial passenger cars using eFuels and electric vehicles are almost on an equal footing. Several current studies prove this to be the case. In future, both can improve their climate balance by using electricity from renewable energies in the manufacture and production of the drive energy – for example as direct current or as liquid climate-neutral fuel such as eFuels.
Different technologies that satisfy different mobility needs can therefore contribute to climate protection. These include combustion engines powered by eFuels as well as electric vehicles that use climate-neutral electricity via a battery or hydrogen from a fuel cell. No one single technology is dominant.
All sustainable technology pathways are needed to fight climate change. We advocate an open technology approach and are in favour of a level playing field for all climate technologies. This is because we are convinced that a fair competition between different solutions will deliver the best results. It makes sense to draw on all available renewable fuels to leverage existing volumes and help innovative fuels reach acceptable market prices quickly. The Renewable Energy Directive defines clear criteria and introduces indirect land-use factors that ensures the sustainability of the feedstocks. Like for eFuels there is a need to further invest and explore new feedstocks, like waste and residues, algae or novel crops that grow on degraded land.
The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) sets clear sustainability criteria for biofuels (Articles 28 and 29). These include compliance with the principles of the circular economy, a detailed life cycle analysis of all emissions, avoidance of negative impact on the environment and biodiversity, and no additional need for cultivation land. Therefore, conventional biofuels are limited at 7% or the value in 2020 plus 1% (Article 26). We support the fact that the EU also wants to exclude biofuels with high risk of indirect land use change such as palm oil by 2030. Therefore, it is almost impossible that conventional biofuels will be further expanded. Additional demand would automatically be met by sustainable biofuels, e.g. from residues and waste materials, and eFuels.