Under the skin: the carbon-neutral fuel that also purifies the air Car News

Almost everything is on the table when it comes to how cars will be powered in the not too distant future.

Although batteries are the favorite at the moment, interest in carbon-neutral synthetic fuel has been rekindled over the past couple of years, with Porsche being one of its main cheerleaders.

Some synthetic fuel processes have the potential to kill two birds with one stone, not only producing carbon neutral fuels, but also removing CO2 from the atmosphere at the same time.

One is the production of methanol created by triggering a chemical reaction between sustainably produced hydrogen and CO2 in the atmosphere using a process called Direct Air Capture (DAC).

The Canadian company Carbon Engineering has been doing this since 2015 and claims to be setting up factories capable of capturing one million tonnes of CO2 from the air per year, the equivalent of 40 million trees.

In the UK, the University of Surrey received £250,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to fund a project to produce carbon-negative methanol from DAC.

Methanol has been championed for many years as an alternative fuel. In the late 1990s, fuel cell teams at Mercedes-Benz (part of Daimler-Chrysler) were convinced that the fastest way to bring fuel cell electric vehicles to market was not to ship hydrogen but methanol.

All that would be needed was to install liners on existing underground gasoline tanks at service stations and retrofit pumps to handle methanol, which could be delivered by tanker trucks like gasoline and diesel. Reformers would extract hydrogen from methanol in the car to power fuel cells, and drivers would pump methanol like gasoline.

German engineers weren’t the only ones who thought methanol had potential. In 2006, Nobel laureate George Olah wrote the book Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy, which explained the benefits of a methanol economy, predicting the climate crisis that is now well understood.

In 2008, visionary engineer James Turner, then Head of Advanced Powertrain at Lotus Engineering, and his colleague Richard Pearson developed the Exige 270E Tri-Fuel prototype, based on the supercharged, petrol-capable Exige S , ethanol or methanol.

The cooling effect of alcohol has increased the density of the intake air, and although it carries less energy by volume than gasoline, alcohol also has a higher octane rating , so the net result was an increase in power from the standard car’s 240 hp to 270 hp. Turner estimated the extra manufacturing cost of the car at the time at a meager £40.

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This notice was published: 2022-05-01 23:01:24

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