A drop of e-fuel in an ocean of oil

October 4, 2022

New analysis of the refining industry's own data finds there will not be enough synthetic fuels to significantly decarbonise the existing car stock.

Battery electric cars (BEVs) are the cleanest, cheapest and best option we have to decarbonise our cars, vans and most trucks, the largest source of carbon emissions in many countries. But Europe is losing ground to global competition: electric cars sales continue surging in China and the US while they have started to stagnate in Europe by the first half of this year.

The decision by both the European Parliament and 27 Member States to phase-out all combustion engine models (ICEs) by 2035 is exactly the signal Europe’s auto industry needs to ramp-up BEV production and reach affordability in the mass-market as early as possible. Yet the oil and automotive supplier lobbies claim that cars are better decarbonised by so-called “carbon neutral” synthetic fuels, or “e-fuels”. This analysis looks at the viability of these neutrality claims and at how many cars can be realistically decarbonised by such fuels.

E-fuels will be in short supply

E-fuels production will still be in its infancy at the time when Europe plans to phase-out the sales of internal combustion cars. Based on the e-fuels industry forecasts, we estimate that 5 million out of the 287 million cars on the road can fully run on e-fuels in 2035. This is just 2% of the EU car fleet, a drop in the ocean. Even if the existing car fleet shifted to only hybrids, this number would only slightly increase to 3%. 

The e-fuels volumes above cannot be certified to be 100% renewable. These would be even lower if only carbon neutral e-fuels – entirely made with additional renewables and CO₂ captured directly from the air – were used.

Plans to import climate neutral e-fuels into Europe in large quantities are also unrealistic as neither the production facilities nor global standards to certify them exist. This would also delay efforts in developing countries to decarbonise their own transport and economies, going against the principles of climate justice. Claims that e-fuels could be a large-scale solution for Europe’s existing car stock are therefore not founded in reality.

Download the analysis to find out more.

Related Articles

View All