German firm will flow money into electrification efforts instead
21 May 2020

The use of synthetic fuels in cars isn’t viable in the mid-term, according to Mercedes research and development boss Markus Schäfer, who said the firm is focusing investment on electrifying its cars.

While some manufacturers – such as Bentley, Mazda, McLaren and Volkswagen – are seriously researching synthetic fuels as a credible alternative to petrol and diesel as well as newer and cleaner alternatives, Schäfer said Mercedes won’t go that way.

“We have made a clear decision that our way will be electric first,” he said. “When we develop new platforms, we think electric first. We have to watch regulations and customer behaviour, but this will be our main road.”

Explaining his reservations concerning synthetic fuels, Schäfer said: “If you have an abundance of energy, the best use is to put it directly into a battery. To transform green energy into an e-fuel is a process where you lose a lot of efficiency.

“If there were more clean energies available, then the first customers would probably be in the aviation industry. Far, far later – I don’t see this in the next 10 years – will come the car industry.”

Mazda’s research on the topic is around recyclable liquid fuels made from microalgae, while McLaren is looking at a CO2-neutral synthetic fuel to power its V8.

Audi got as far as producing its own synthetic petrol and diesel for testing in 2018, while Volkswagen’s technical chief recently said that such fuels will extend the life of the combustion engine, despite the VW Group’s huge investment in electrification.

READ MORE

McLaren advocates synthetic fuel as alternative to EVs 

Volkswagen: Combustion engine has life in it yet 

Mercedes-Benz: organic batteries a 'very promising' technology

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9

21 May 2020
Why are none of the large petrol producing companies looking into this ? BP has already bought Chargemaster so obviously has an appetite for green tech .

21 May 2020

Biomass, growing then rotting crops etc and it's been proved it's not that green especially compared to a BEV using wind, hydro, solar power either.  Although with the mileage we are doing at the moment we won't need much of any fuels

21 May 2020
xxxx wrote:

Biomass, growing then rotting crops etc and it's been proved it's not that green especially compared to a BEV using wind, hydro, solar power either.  Although with the mileage we are doing at the moment we won't need much of any fuels

 

Growing crops for bio fuel isn't good. But using rotting food or other organic food? Now you're talking. You are potentially stopping methane entering the atmosphere, which is a powerful global warming gas (although thankfully short lived, unlike CO2). I hope synthetic fuels have a future - electric trucks, planes or container ships look a long way off.

21 May 2020

Agreed, but rotting food is currently used to heat homes in some areas which IS a good use.  Maybe Mercedes looked at the way electricity production is heading, for Q1 in the UK 41% came from renewables, not bad when you consider how late in the day wind power was.

Bodes well for the clearer air by the pavement

21 May 2020

Didnt the German army develop and use synthetic fuel during WW2? 

Surely with 70 years of technological advancements it cant be that difficult.  

21 May 2020

You got there before me...

22 May 2020
Citytiger wrote:

Didnt the German army develop and use synthetic fuel during WW2? 

Surely with 70 years of technological advancements it cant be that difficult.  

They made petrol out of coal, this somewhat defeats the modern objective being much more carbon intensive than making petrol out of oil.

21 May 2020

I think the problem is not the fuel, but that it would be used in ICE cars, and the EU want rid of them. furthermore the more people globally using EVs, the more cheap petrol will be available for the rest of the world. I wonder if synthetic fuel can be made as cheaply as low cost petrol?

22 May 2020
artill wrote:

I think the problem is not the fuel, but that it would be used in ICE cars, and the EU want rid of them. furthermore the more people globally using EVs, the more cheap petrol will be available for the rest of the world. I wonder if synthetic fuel can be made as cheaply as low cost petrol?

Yes,

Firstly China, the EU and to a lesser extent the US all want to move to EVs, that is the majority of worlds car sales. Much of the developing world uses hand me down cars rather than new purchases.

Secondly if the oil price is low it means that there is minimal scope for exploration (this includes creating new fuels). It might never come back as when the economy comes back ICE cars are being widely replaced.

Thirdly EVs are likely to impact the petrol distribution network as they replace petrol cars. As they drive garages into closure the distribution network becomes less widespread and thus less useful. This is a classic death spiral.

In less mature markets who is going to start building petrol stations, pipelines and creating tanker fleets when it is obvious that all cars will be electric.

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