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Gaurav Agnihotri

Gaurav Agnihotri

Gaurav Agnihotri, a Mechanical engineer and an MBA -Marketing from ICFAI (Institute of Chartered Financial Accountants), Mumbai, is a result oriented and a business focused…

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Audi’s Fuel Breakthrough Could Revolutionize The Automotive Sector

Audi’s Fuel Breakthrough Could Revolutionize The Automotive Sector

In what can be considered as a landmark achievement, German Car Manufacturer Audi has reportedly invented a ‘carbon neutral diesel fuel’ that is made entirely out of carbon dioxide, water and renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. The world is desperately searching for cleaner and sustainable alternatives to the conventional fossil fuels in form of renewables. Audi may well have discovered a potential game changer that can power the existing transportation industry while altering the dynamics of global energy sector.

Currently, the German car giant has set up a pilot plant in Dresden where it is being operated by a relatively unknown company called Sunfire. The company currently has the capacity to produce 3000 liters of ‘e-diesel’ in next few months. Related: Range Resources Expects Natural Gas Glut To Even Out By Year End


Audi Handout

Image source: Time Magazine

What Is This New Technology?

Sunfire is calling its base product ‘blue crude’ which is created through a three step process. The first step involves harvesting energy from renewables such as solar, wind and hydropower. The second step consists of splitting water into oxygen and pure hydrogen through reversible electrolysis. The final step consists of mixing the resulting pure hydrogen with carbon monoxide at high temperatures thereby creating ‘blue crude’. The resulting ‘blue crude’ is then further refined and converted into an ‘e-diesel’. The resulting e-diesel can then be combined with an existing conventional diesel fuel or used on its own in a more economical way.

About Sunfire

Founded in 2010, the Dresden based cleantech firm develops new technologies for efficient and zero carbon energy supply. The firm is supported by business angels, Bilfinger Venture Capitalists, ERP Startfonds at KfW, Total Energy Ventures and Electranova Capital. Related: Oil, The Fed And The Ugly Truth About Capital Markets

According to Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen, ““If we get the first sales order, we will be ready to commercialize our technology.” As per their press release, the overall efficiency of the e-diesel is close to 70%. This means that current version of ‘e-diesel’ needs to be mixed with the conventional diesel to produce 100% efficiency.

An Exciting New Possibility That Can Reduce Global Transportation Costs

With its huge potential, there is little doubt as to why the German Government has welcomed this new technology. Johanna Wanka, Germany’s federal minister for education and research who test drove the fuel called it “a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources.”

The biggest advantage for Sunfire is that it is backed by Audi, an auto giant that has decided to produce nearly 800 gallons in next few months as a part of its pilot program. If everything goes well, we can expect a significant ramp up in investment, with lesser CO2 emissions becoming an ever more important priority.

What Are The Potential Benefits Of E-diesel?


Total U.S Greenhouse Emissions in 2013

Total Emissions in 2013 = 6,673 Million Metric Tons of CO2equivalent 

Source: EPA

Related: EU Needs To Invest €400B By 2020 To Keep Renewables On Track

One of the major contributors to climate change is the ever-increasing air pollution from conventional vehicles. In US alone, the transportation sector contributes around 27% of the total greenhouse emissions. If something as revolutionary as ‘E-diesel’ becomes practically and commercially viable, then expect these greenhouse emissions to reduce drastically over time. In addition, if the production of e-diesel picks up, it could be selling in the range of $ 1.2 to $1.7 per liter depending on the cost of renewable electricity. Conventional diesel is currently selling above $1.7 dollars a liter in Germany, so it is obvious that e-diesel would be extremely competitive and sustainable.

It will be interesting to track both Audi and Sunfire’s progress over the next few months….

To watch Sunfire’s video on the alternative fuel, click here.

By Gaurav Agnihotri of Oilprice.com

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  • Trevor on May 01 2015 said:
    It maybe not quite so obvious that the new fuel is competitive in price when you consider that about half the $1.7 a litre price in Germany is tax. Have you included tax in the price of E-diesel? Or will E-diesel be twice the price of current fuels - at best?
    Of course, when the price of oil goes up again, it may well be competitive.
  • Martin H Katchen on May 01 2015 said:
    Give us all a break! The easiest way for Germany to get CO is not by breaking down CO2 but by burning coal underground in the presence of steam. Coal that Germany still has plenty of. It's a great deal for Germany, no doubt about it. Germany gets to stop importing it's motor fuel from anywhere. And if production is limited to when the sun is up (which it can be) the energy input can be photovoltaic. But don't call it carbon neutral! It's just another way to safely make use of coal without mining it and giving the miners blacklung and possibly avoiding strip mining too. Just like using a catalyst to turn CO from coal into ethanol or propanol.
  • len b on May 02 2015 said:
    The questions is how much energy is needed to create edeisel vs non is extracting oil and refining.....i suspect it involves much more and just like every other green scam either the payback is a decade or the energy used to create or produced doesnt compare to ngas or gas.....so before posting on green ask that q first. CO2 reduction need is a way overblown...
  • CrazyCooter on May 03 2015 said:
    LenB, that is exactly right; without knowing the ENERGY INPUTS in direct comparison to ENERGY OUTPUT efficiency can not be known. A per-litre price was thrown out, but without breaking down how they arrived at that number (subsidies, input costs, capitalization of factory, whatever) it is more or less a meaningless sound bite.

    Since energy is not free and no process is 100% efficient, I suspect it wasn't stated for a reason (if the process was 90% efficient they would brag about it).

    That said, this could be useful for remote locations with significant geothermal or hydro capacity to produce a product for export. If I am not mistaken, this is why Iceland makes so much aluminum (i.e. cheap surplus geothermal driven electricity).


  • John Adan on May 04 2015 said:
    I have driven a Mercedes in Europe, designed for e-diesel. It is very clean and will not run on on regular diesel. You add e-diesel to your tank and it will run again. Have some spare e-diesel in reserve in case anybody sells you regular diesel for this new engine.
  • garce on May 04 2015 said:
    WOW .. new news , eh ??? Syntroleum has been making jet fuel and deisel
    from chicken fat for years .. hasn't gone anywhere yet ..
    Silverado had a process to convert lignite(coal) into a combustable fluid
    that could be burned in any internal combustion engine with no tinkering
    necessary .. it too has gone nowhere ...

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