There may be hope in keeping our internal combustion engine Citroëns running for decades to come – with help from the Germans. Porsche says its synthetic fuel could make gas-powered engines as clean as EVs.

The marque’s vice president Motorsport and GT cars, Dr. Frank Walliser, told British car magazine Evo that the company is hard at work on a synthetic fuel technology that could save traditional, gas-powered mills. “The fuel won’t just reduce emissions, either; it has the potential to make combustion engines just as clean as their battery-powered counterparts,” said Walliser.

Dr. Frank Walliser, vice president Motorsport and GT cars — Porsche

Walliser claims the company’s synthetic fuel, which will be called eFuel, can be used in any combustion engine and is scheduled to start undergoing testing next year. The fuel is less complex than traditional gas—eight to 10 components compared to 30 to 40—allowing it to burn cleaner, with fewer particulates and NOx. Because of this, the total carbon footprint of the vehicle will be equal to that of an EV.

“Synthetic fuel is cleaner and there is no bi-product, and when we start full production we expect a CO2 reduction of 85 percent,” Walliser told the publication. “From a ‘well to wheel’ perspective—and you have to consider the well to wheel impact of all vehicles—this will be the same level of CO2 produced in the manufacture and use of an electric vehicle.”

Porsche first announced its investment into Siemens Energy’s eFuel technology last year. At the time of the announcement, both companies claimed the alliance would produce more than 500 million litres of its synthetic fuels annually by 2026.

Walliser says that the companies are on track to achieve that target. First trials in small volumes will start in 2022.

Porsche isn’t the only premium automaker exploring the potential of synthetic fuel. Last spring, McLaren Automotive COO Jens Ludmann said the British marque viewed the nascent technology as a valid alternative to electric drivetrains. The executive also said the marque intended to eventually build a prototype that would run on synthetic fuel.

Although it will take a lot of time and money to make synthetic fuel a reality, it’s easy to see why automakers like Porsche and McLaren are intrigued by its potential. Despite a shift towards EV production, and pledges from automakers to stop producing vehicles with combustion engines entirely, only 3.2 million of the 64 million vehicles sold last year were EVs. If development of the technology continues, it has the potential to offer yet another way of lowering dangerous emissions worldwide.

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