Mazda: Electric vehicles and synthetic fuels must co-exist

Vehicles powered by e-fuels complement rather than compete with electric vehicles, and should be considered as a viable alternative on the path to carbon neutrality, according to today’s guests on the Autocar Business seminar.

Mazda’s European research director Christian Schultze said: “We believe that e-fuels are not in competition with the electrification route, but complement it. E-fuels can be used already on existing cars – and future cars. Having two pathways to follow can get us to climate neutrality faster and better.”

He continued: “There are pros and cons of both. Combustion engines are hard to make as quiet as an EV, while long-distance journeys are harder to make with an EV. Lets use the good points of both technologies to drive forward carbon neutrality rather than betting on one technology. 

Automotive consultancy SCE’s Steve Sapsford added: “It’s not trying to replace our journey to electrification. Banning internal combustion engines might be picking a fight with the wrong enemy – stopping our dependence on fossil fuels is where we should be focused.”

Sapsford said that the immediate focus should be using e-fuels as ‘drop-in’ fuels – which can be mixed with existing gasoline. “Drop-in fuel meets the current specification – and the engines, consumer and infrastructure should not notice any difference. It’s perfectly feasible to use [e-fuels] as drop-in fuel.”

Schutlze predicted that e-fuels pricing would be on a par with gasoline by 2030 in Europe. He said: ”By 2030, it can be around one euro. When you factor in CO2 taxation on fossil fuels, I think gasoline prices will become even higher. E-fuels are very very close to being on a par with gasoline prices.”

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Shultze, Sapsford and Paddy Lowe, founder of Zero Petroleum and ex-Formula One engineer, all called on legislators to consider well-to-wheel emissions rather than just tailpipe emissions as a means to achieve carbon neutrality. Schultze also said e-fuels should be considered for similar subsidies to EVs. “We need to find solutions that lead us to the CO2 neutral target – what is the reason for ruling out for technologies?” 

Speaking on motorsport and e-fuels, Lowe commented: “Motorsport is generally a great platform for pioneering new approaches and new technology and giving  them publicity. We’ve had Formula E, I think we’ll see hydrogen competitions and we will definitely see synthetics.”

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