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Paradox E-Fuels, or: When technology prevents progress

In February, the EU Parliament passed a “combustion ban” for new cars from 2035. Actually, the final vote of the member states should have taken place on March 7, 2023. But what was considered a formality has been postponed indefinitely. Because some of the countries did not want to agree to the proposal. Among them – how could it be otherwise – also Germany. Now e-fuels are supposed to delay progress.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing had already announced that he could not agree to the EU Parliament’s decision. He demanded one instead Compromisenamely that combustion engines should remain permitted after 2035 as long as they are operated with synthetic fuels, so-called e-fuels.

What are e-fuels?

Synthetic fuel is produced from water and CO2 with the help of electricity – naturally from renewable energies. When this fuel burns, it only releases the CO2 that was previously used from the atmosphere. It is therefore considered climate-neutral.

Other advantages: The e-fuels work in existing cars, at existing filling stations and with existing technology. Sounds good at first, doesn’t it?

E-Fuels: Not all that glitters is fuel

Unfortunately, all this is not as easy as it sounds. The production of e-fuels requires a lot of electricity. So much electricity that in Germany not enough renewable energies can be generated to produce the fuel in a climate-neutral manner. The production would therefore have to take place in other countries, for example South America.

The efficiency losses of e-fuels are also large. In the “well-to-wheel” analysis, only 10 to 15 percent of the energy used in the process remains. In an electric car, 70 to 80 percent of the output energy arrives at the wheel, he writes ADAC.

The eternal discussion

What really blocks us is the endless discussion on this topic. If there’s one thing we can do, then that’s discussing it. For years on the same subject with no results.

I’m really pro-development and advanced technology, but when we start blocking existing opportunities for greener mobility, arguing that in a few years we’ll have something that can work even better, then that’s an incomprehensible paradox.

I’m not saying I won’t eat this meal that’s on the table today, because my mother-in-law is coming in three weeks. She cooks so well, it’ll be a lot better than the food I got today.

“I can phase” vs. “I must phase”

We have to learn to let go and dare to engage with a new technology. Just because climate change is a gradual process doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It only reassures us too much because we don’t notice it every day.

But that doesn’t mean that it won’t affect the future of us humans. There’s still something we can do. We’re in an “I can-do” phase. Nobody’s forcing us to do anything, so we just don’t do enough.

But there won’t be an “I must phase” for a long time and that’s our problem. We must now finally act consistently and take the next step.

E-mobility: Our best option

I am firmly convinced that e-mobility will be the technology for the next 20 years to save CO2 in the mobility sector. But in order to fully exploit the potential, we must also allow it.

And at the same time trust that the next technology will be developed, which in turn is able to solve electric mobility challenges and problems. That’s how it always was, that’s how it always will be.

But if we always just block, then we get nothing at all and thus prevent the necessary consistent further development of e-mobility in all areas.

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