Bosch: synthetic fuels could capture CO2 from the air and turn it into petrol

The combustion engine might not be dead, after all

Good news for petrolheads everywhere: internal combustion engines could not be on the death row anymore, as new synthetic fuels are on the horizon.

Bosch is not only one of the leading car parts manufacturer, but it's also one of the largest R&D companies when it comes to synthetic oils and materials. And now it comes with the interesting idea that we could continue to drive our petrol cars but become CO2-neutral, due to a new technology that allows capturing of the CO2 greenhouse gas and turns it into fuel. And it's not the only company that currently develops such tech, as the video below proves.

To be Carbon-neutral, synthetic fuels have to be made solely with the help of renewable energy. As Bosch engineers show, in a first stage, Hydrogen is produced from water. Carbon is added to this to produce a liquid fuel. This Carbon can be recycled from industrial processes or even captured from the air using filters, becoming a raw material, from which gasoline, diesel, and substitute natural gas can be produced with the help of electricity from renewable sources. Combining CO2 and H2 then results in the synthetic fuel, which can be gasoline, diesel, gas, or even kerosene.

“Synthetic fuels can make gasoline- and diesel-powered cars carbon-neutral, and thus make a significant contribution to limiting global warming”.

Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH.

For now, the fuel itself (excluding any excise duties) could cost between 1.00 and 1.40 euros a liter in the long run, which is much more expensive than current fuels. However, as the technology matures and higher taxes are put on the more pollutant fuels, it could become more efficient to drive a hybrid with this kind of fuel rather than a Diesel car or an EV, taking into account total costs of ownership.

By 2050, the use of synthetic fuels as a scheduled supplement to electrification could save up to 2.8 gigatons of CO2, three times Germany’s carbon-dioxide emissions in 2016.

The main advantage is the absence of further investments in the fuel-delivering infrastructure. According to Bosch, because synthetic fuels are compatible with the existing infrastructure and engine generation, achieving a high degree of market penetration would take far less time than electrifying the existing vehicle fleet. Nor will anything change for the drivers of older vehicles, as even classic cars will still run on synthetic gasoline – regarding its chemical structure and fundamental properties, it is still gasoline.

Another advantage is that synthetic fuels can be designed to burn practically soot-free. In this way, the cost of exhaust-gas treatment can be reduced. This is very good news for the near future, because even if all cars were to drive electrically one day, aircraft, ships, and even trucks would still run mainly on fuel. Carbon-neutral combustion engines that run on synthetic fuels are thus a very promising path to explore.

On the other hand, it really seems electric vehicles are the future, being much more energy-efficient so maybe this is just a waste of time and money. What do you think?