Luxury car maker Audi has announced that it is making synthetic diesel fuel from just water and carbon dioxide.
Audi’s pilot plant, which is operated in Dresden by German start-up Sunfire, has produced its first batches of the “e-diesel” fuel earlier this month.
To commemorate the potentially huge accomplishment, German Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka put a few liters of the fuel in her work car, an Audi A8. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. The first diesel made from air and water (photo: Audi).
The start-up is referring to its base fuel as “blue crude”. It is made by taking electricity from renewable sources — wind, solar or hydro power — and using reversible electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water.
In the next step, the hydrogen is mixed with CO2 which has been converted into CO via two chemical processes. The resulting reactions produce a liquid containing long-chain hydrocarbons — that is the “blue crude”, which is then refined to produce synthetic e-diesel.
According to Audi, most of the carbon dioxide used in the process is supplied by a biogas facility, with some CO2 captured directly from the air, taking the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere in the process.
2. To commemorate the potentially huge accomplishment, German Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka put a few liters of the fuel in her work car, an Audi A8 (photo: Audi).
Sunfire says that the properties of their e-diesel are superior to those of the fossil kind, adding that its lack of sulfur and fossil-based oil makes their product more environmentally friendly.
The overall energy efficiency of the e-diesel production process using renewable power is around 70 percent, Audi claims. Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen says:
The engine runs quieter and fewer pollutants are being created.
The e-diesel can be mixed with conventional diesel fuel, which is often done with existing biodiesel fuels.
3. An overview of the production process (photo: Audi).
The pilot plant in Dresden is set to produce about 42 gallons (160 l) of e-diesel per day in the coming months and the two companies are already planning to build a bigger production plant. Sunfire’s von Olshausen said:
If we get the first sales order, we will be ready to commercialize our technology.
Sunfire expects that the market price for their e-diesel could be between 1 and 1.5 euros ($1.1 – $1.6) per liter, which would be slightly more expensive than current diesel prices in Europe. However, the actual figure will be largely dependent on the price of electricity.
4. Alternative fuels from air, water an renewable energy — Sunfire.
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