E-fuels, which are chemically similar to petrol and diesel, have been touted by the fossil fuel industry and car parts suppliers as a way to prolong the life of the internal combustion engine beyond zero-emissions targets. Now EU lawmakers are coming under pressure to provide a loophole for synthetic fuels in car CO2 standards.
So, why is the fossil fuel industry promoting e-fuels for vehicles?
Some engine-makers and oil companies want a loophole for e-fuels so they can go on selling combustion engines and hold on to a big market for oil.
A fuel for the wealthy
The proponents of e-fuels for cars are advocating for CO2 credits for synthetic fuels and advanced biofuels to be added into the car CO2 standards. Our analysis shows why this is not credible from an economic point of view.
Taking the total cost of ownership into account, running a car on e-fuels over five years will cost a driver €10,000 more than running a battery electric car. High e-fuel costs will also make running second-hand cars on e-petrol around €10,000 more expensive over the same timeframe.
Jeopardise industry competitiveness
E-fuels would also be the most costly CO2 compliance route for carmakers. It would cost vehicle manufacturers around €10,000 in fuel credits for the amount of synthetic petrol needed to compensate for the emissions of an efficient petrol car placed on the market in 2030. Burdening the European automotive industry with e-fuels credits would jeopardise its competitiveness and divert large investments away from the transition to e-mobility. Learn more about the true cost of e-fuels for cars.
Too inefficient for cars
Producing e-fuels is also far less efficient than powering electric vehicles. Supplying just 10% of new cars with e-fuels instead of electrifying them will require 26% more renewable electricity generation in Europe, an independent study shows. Synthetic fuels should instead be prioritised for planes and ships, most of which cannot use batteries to decarbonise and which today burn fossil fuels that may be even worse for air pollution. Find out more about why e-fuels would be wasted on cars.
Running cars on e-fuels will not alleviate air pollution
Cars powered by synthetic fuel emit as much poisonous nitrogen oxides (NOx) as fossil fuel engines, independent emissions testing shows. In a laboratory, research organisation IFP Energies Nouvelles compared for T&E the emissions from a car using petrol and three different blends of e-petrol. The car running on e-petrol emits equally high levels of toxic NOx as standard E10 petrol and much more carbon monoxide and ammonia.
While particle emissions are considerably reduced in the switch, more than two billion particles are still emitted for every kilometer driven in an e-petrol powered vehicle. When burned, synthetic petrol causes almost three times more carbon monoxide – which deprives the heart and brain of oxygen – compared to petrol.
The tests confirm that using e-fuels in cars will do little to alleviate the air quality problems in our cities. Read more about the emissions testing.
What should lawmakers do?
MEPs and governments are currently deciding on an EU Commission proposal that all new cars sold in 2035 be 100% zero-emissions – leaving no back door for e-fuel cars. By supporting this target and refusing to leave loopholes for synthetic fuels in car emissions targets, lawmakers can ensure that the public are not condemned to decades more of avoidable air pollution.