How is electricity generated from fuel

Without soot and emissions Green electricity and CO2 from the air: fuel of the future

If these fuels already existed today, we might not talk so much about electric cars: Synthetic fuels that can be generated climate-neutrally from CO2 (we have more than enough of it) and green electricity (which is also safely available). Their combustion occurs largely without soot and emissions and, thanks to the production with biomass or renewable energies, is climate-friendly to almost CO2-neutral, according to the Federal Ministry of Research.

These synthetic fuels still exist, which the federal government regards as an "important part of the energy transition", but which its advisors regard as still too expensive, but not at the petrol station. A research project from Central Germany wants to change that. The TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems in Halle (IMWS) have joined forces with various partners.

Market readiness in the next two years

The aim is to bring the production of such fuels to market maturity in the next two years. The seven project partners agreed on this at the start of their joint "InnoSynfuels" project. "The goal that the project consortium has set itself is very ambitious," says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernd Meyer, Director of the Institute for Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering (IEC) at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg. "But the energy transition can only succeed through projects like this. I am pleased that so many partners have come together to produce synthetic CO2-neutral fuels for sectors that absolutely need liquid fuels."

The project idea arose from the Fraunhofer initiative progressLausitz and is intended to support structural change, according to a press release. It aims at sustainable future development and business settlements in Lusatia and ties in with the economic and structural strengths of the region.

Problem to be solved: cost and efficiency

Research is being carried out around the world on synthetic fuels with which we can move vehicles or heat apartments. And in Germany, too, there are already several projects that have been working for years to develop technology ready for series production. In addition to the lack of market maturity and the high costs, a problem is currently the low level of efficiency.

On the other hand, such fuels would also have a decisive advantage over new concepts because they "unlike hydrogen, are compatible with today's tank infrastructure for conventional fuels without restriction", says the current report of the National Platform for the Future of Mobility (NPM) to the Federal government.

Even Greenpaece sees it that way and in a study recommends the e-car or synthetic fuels made with renewable energies for individual mobility.

Environmental study: not so green after all?

A current investigation by the Federal Environment Agency adds another concern to the concerns. Because for all energy sources that are obtained from renewable energies, such as synthetic fuels, the "environmental impact of technical and logistical options for the provision of such energy sources on the basis of environmental impact categories such as global warming potential, acidification or land requirement" must also be calculated. In other words: The production is not so cheap from a climate point of view.

Links and reading material

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research on synthetic fuels.
Here to read

A SZ report on the discussion about the new fuels.
Expensive wrong way?

The short report of the above-mentioned NPM, from working group 2 Alternative drives and fuels for sustainable mobility.
Complete report as pdf.

The contribution of synthetic fuels to the traffic transition: options and priorities - this is the name of the Greenpeace investigation.

The current study "System comparison of storable energy sources from renewable energies" by the Federal Environment Agency - here as a pdf.