It seems everybody is going electric-only and much faster than anticipated. But is there a better solution than EVs looming on the horizon?
In the last two or three months the number of automotive constructors that have pledged to go electric only in the next decade is unbelievable.
Volvo, for instance, say that from 2030 they will sell no more combustion-engine cars, including hybrids. Anything that burns fuels is out. The Swedish line-up will be EV-only and mainly through online sales, leaving dealers to deal with the post-sale requirements, such as maintenance and warranties.
Volvo say the decision “builds on the expectation that legislation as well as a rapid expansion of accessible high-quality charging infrastructure will accelerate consumer acceptance of fully electric cars”.
Jaguar must think Volvo is right, as the British brand announced it will stop producing ICE cars as early as 2025. That’s in three and a half years. For a catalogue of exactly ONE electric car, I wonder if they will get any sleep in the next 40 months.
Ford, the American giant, will keep selling petrol cars in the US after 2030 but not so in Europe, where its cars are going to be purely electricity-driven.
Predicted cost of such a change: not much, something around €22B. As for Audi, information recently released by the Germans from Ingolstadt says all new models from 2026 will be electric only and no more internal combustion engines will be produced from 2033 on, with the exception of the Chinese market because…well…demand is just too big. Ultimately, they say, the clients will determine the death of the thermal technology in automobiles.
In my opinion we will be seeing the word exception a lot more in the years to come, as the implementation of such principles is much easier said than done. But let’s proceed into the luxury market: Bentley is also targeting 2030 as the year where its line-up will be 100% EVs. Currently, the crew from Crewe have one hybrid in the catalogue and that’s it. Again, nine years seems pretty slim for such a transformative move, but Bentely’s custodians, Volkswagen, have been pouring billions into electric car development, so who knows? Maybe they’ll make it.
The Italians from Fiat were the last ones to commit to a full electric catalogue in 2030, with a graduate electrification of the range between 2025 and 2030. This also from a constructor who has but one EV at the moment.
All of this seems to me much more like a political approach to reality than a technological one. How will all of us buy only electric cars in 2030? Where will we charge them? With electricity produced at what origin? Where will all the lithium for batteries come from? Will we stand waiting in line to charge our cars? There are just so many questions and not that many answers.
If you are a regular reader of this newspaper, you will know I tend to support a hydrogen powered future, even knowing a hydrogen fuel cell is not yet efficient enough to be implemented in every car and that manufacturers find it quite harder (and more expensive) to keep hydrogen in a closed tank than petrol.
Happily, it seems another solution I can get behind is slowly gaining traction. It’s called synthetic fuel and Porsche is leading the way when it comes to such technology (but they are not alone, as McLaren, Bosch and Audi have all been throwing money into it as well).
Porsche’s so called eFuels are produced out of CO2 and hydrogen and using renewable energy. In theory, the liquid that is put into cars as if it was petrol is climate neutral and burns in the same way the engine burns fossil fuels.
It is, obviously, cleaner and, very importantly, there is no byproduct. Expected CO2 reduction is 85%, as told to Evo Magazine by Frank Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport and GT Cars, ‘from well to wheel – and you have to consider the impact of all vehicles in between – this will be the same level of CO2 produced in the manufacture of EV vehicles.’
eFuels can be pumped into a standard petrol-powered car without any adjustments or transformations to the existing propulsion system, making it a perfect solution in a world where combustion engines will still dominate the roads for many years to come, even if new cars start becoming electric only. This, says Michael Steiner, a member of Porsche’s executive board for R&D, ‘is the only way to make the existing fleet sustainable in the short to medium term’.
The first batch of Porsche eFuel should be ready by early 2022 and consists of 130.000 litres that will be tested in racing cars. Yes, because eFuels can also be the salvation motorsport needs. Formula E can be exciting but mostly because cars keep crashing into one another not because the fans love the machines that take part. Silent racing seems a bit of a paradox to me.
Anyway, let’s see if a brand so focused on electrifying its range with hybrids and that currently makes the best EV in the world – I mean you Porsche Taycan – can be the saviour of the internal combustion engine. Porsche have very, very rarely let us down and this time they have all the petrolheads in the world rooting for them.
Porsche is exploring a new solution to world mobility in the form of the synthetic fuel. A massive change that would leave many important things – such as the cars we love – the same.
By Guilherme Marques