W​hat Are Synthetic Fuels?

T​here is a lot of talk about synthetics now so I listened in my chemistry lessons (for once) and here's a summary

2d ago


I​'m sure a lot of you have heard of Synthetic Fuels by now. But for those who don't, its basically a chemical compound of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2). When combined, they produce a liquid fuel which can be burned in an internal combustion engine. When burned, it produces minimal emissions whilst offering the same power and performance as a petrol or diesel equivalent. Many enthusiasts (including me) love this. Why wouldn't we? It could keep the ICE alive meaning the cars we love could be experienced for many future generations whilst producing nearly no emissions. However, there are some who despise them and are in favour of other fuel sources like BEVs (ugh). I won't go into too much depth about BEVs, because I've written about 12 billion articles on how much of a scam they are. Still feel free to disagree.

N​ow one simple explanation for someone not liking synthetics is that they don't like ICE cars. I get that. Many people were brought into the car community by Tesla and BEVs etc. I would naturally try and defend my own favourite type of car. It's what I'm doing now by writing this article. I disagree with that but it's an understandable opinion to have if you are a 9 year old who believes that BEVs are good for the environment. All jokes aside though, it's your opinion and I understand you defending it.

H​owever, I myself have even looked into BEV emissions. My results were based on a VW polo sized car, as they are the most popular type of car in my part of the World. I concluded that an ICE car powered by petrol would produce around 40 tonnes of CO2 in its lifetime including sourcing of the energy to power it, producing the car itself and driving. A BEV's emissions on the same criteria would be roughly half that. Nearly every other investigation into the topic including those from Polestar and Donut Media has proportionally identical results as me. I didn't actually know I could do arithmetic that well but it is safe to say that BEVs still produce a fair amount of emissions. You can't deny that. Now if I was to add Synthetics to the mix, my estimates would be around half a tonne for an identical car under the same conditions. Yep, that is 1/40 of a BEV. That just seems implausible right? Well let me explain this: remember how I was talking about the chemical formula of synthetics earlier? It is a compound of carbon and hydrogen. Car emissions are measured in carbon. Starting to see a theme here? Whilst emissions would be produced because of combustion, they would all be eradicted practically, as they would be used for fuel. If your still sceptical about obtaining the carbon, try breathing out. Congratulations, you have produced part of the fuel for Synthetics!

S​o there is no question about the amount of carbon being there. And hydrogen is the most abundant element in the known universe. The issue that people argue with is the carbon and hydrogen capture itself. Many will say: "It is too expensive to source carbon renewably." Partly I agree. To capture a tonne of carbon directly and renewably cost on average 370 USD in 2019. That is around 7x more than the cost of petroleum sourcing. And this is before we add hydrogen. However, the previous year, prices were around 500 USD. That is very promising. Now to gain hydrogen using electrolysis is about 10 USD per kg. you would need about 60 kg to power a car being split evenly between the two. That eqautes to around 311 USD to source one tank of synthetic fuel. That is a LOT. In fact about 7.5 times more than petrol. This means that the prices for fuel would be higher too, at about 10 USD per litre of fuel. Petrol is about 7 times less than that. However, as we saw, the prices are coming down at an insane rate.

I​n summary, Synthetics produce nearly no CO2, power the cars we love, but cost a lot more. But in my opinion, costs are coming down, and the investment we make financially will be given back in equal or stronger proportions environmentally. They aren't a solution to the issue, but they are by far the best option we've got.

T​hanks for reading! Share your opinions in the comments respectfully!

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Comments (15)

  • Really interesting, but of course I have a few questions. Do you combine CO2 or CO with Hydrogen to make Synthetic fuels? How do you get the Hydrogen? How do you collect the CO2/CO? I think the main problem with ICEs is that they are very inefficient (I still love them though), this is why I don't believe that they will have a very big part in the future, although they are likely to still exist.

      2 days ago
    • Yes you combine Carbon monoxide with hydrogen to create the fuel. The hydrogen is produced through electrolysis. I know you suppot FCEV and they only are good for the environment when sourced through electrolysis. Collecting the Carbon...

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        2 days ago
    • My main problem with it is that combining Hydrogen with Carbon Monoxide is good for people but it doesn't get rid of the Carbon Dioxide, which is part of the problem environmentally. Although you have pointed out a major problem with how cars...

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        2 days ago
  • It looks like the car people are in favour of Synthetics and tbh our opinions are more educated than the governments':

      2 days ago