Electric cars are the future, right? With oil running out carbon dioxide emissions increasing seemingly exponentially, yes. But then again, not necessarily.
One alternative that’s currently flying under the radar but could become much more prominent are synthetic fuels. Audi, working with German energy company Sunfire, has developed a method of synthesising diesel from water and carbon dioxide.
Water is heated to 800 degrees celsius – using renewable-generated electricity, obviously – creating steam so hot it breaks down into its oxygen and hydrogen component parts. The oxygen is released and the hydrogen is combined with CO2 recovered from the atmosphere.
Under heat and pressure the hydrogen and carbon dioxide synthesise into a liquid known as blue crude which is refined into e-diesel, as Audi calls it. E-diesel can be mixed with regular diesel or used on its own; Audi claims it produces less suphur and nitrogen dioxides than regular diesel.
Germany’s Minister of Research drove an A8 3.0 TDi using the first five litres of e-diesel. Under large-scale production, a cost of 70p to £1.10 is predicted.
The demise of the internal combustion engine has been predicted for decades, precisely because the oil is running out and carbon dioxide emissions are increasing seemingly exponentially. But if synthetic diesel can be made from its primary waste product, it could potentially keep ICEs going indefinitely.
Certainly, it’s indicative of the fact that there is no single solution to our energy needs and environmental problems.