E-fuels: EU-based automaker is testing 'low carbon fuels' for existing cars

There is a need to develop smart alternatives for 1.3 billion cars already on the road, says CEO.
Ameya Paleja
A Stellantis plant in Indiana in the U.S.
A Stellantis plant in Indiana in the U.S.


Amsterdam-headquartered automaker, Stellantis, is betting on synthetic fuels, also known as e-fuels, to keep combustion engines alive, even as the world looks to electrify transportation in the near future.

Formed only in 2021, Stellantis is a merger of two legacy carmakers, the Italian Fiat Chrysler and French Peugeot S.A. Even as the merger has plans in place to comply with the European Union mandate to sell only battery electric vehicles by the end of the decade, Stellantis isn't giving up on the combustion engine vehicles just yet.

What are e-fuels and how do they help?

E-fuels, short for electro fuel, are envisioned as a replacement for conventional fossil fuels. E-fuels are synthetic in origin and are manufactured by combining captured carbon from industrial processes and hydrogen made using renewable energy sources.

Since the carbon released when the fuel is burnt is not more than the carbon captured, it is considered a low carbon footprint solution. The hydrocarbon nature of the fuel makes it convenient to be used as a drop-in replacement for fossil fuel, especially for long-haul transport, marine, and air transportation.

E-fuels: EU-based automaker is testing 'low carbon fuels' for existing cars
Representative image for synthetic fuel

E-fuels have been in the pipeline for over a decade and many companies have previously invested in the technology. Stellantis interest in the technology stems from the fact that it has 14 different brands under its wing, where it has already supplied more than 28 million vehicles.

Even as it prepares to transition to a fully electric vehicle (EV) lineup in the near future and has also built a road that can charge EVs, CEO Carlos Tavares isn't completely convinced that EVs are the only solution to the emissions problem. The company believes that it needs to offer existing internal combustion engine customers an "affordable and drop-in" option to decarbonize their transportation without having to change the fuel system or replace their existing vehicle.

To do so, Stellantis has begun testing e-fuels in 28 different engine families across its brands, with some engines being nearly a decade old now. The company is testing for details such as power, reliability, and emissions from using e-fuels, The Drive said in its report.

While staying committed to electric transition, Tavares also wants to offer a solution to 1.3 billion combustion engine cars that are on the market today and expects e-fuels to deliver an almost immediate impact.

Even though e-fuels are exempt from the EU ban on combustion engines, automakers are split on their potential. While Volkswagen has dismissed them as "old technology," its sister brand Porsche green-lighted a new $75 million investment into the development of the technology last year.

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