As part of the current government’s ‘green industrial revolution, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the plan to ban UK sales of solely combustion driven cars has been brought forward to 2030. This is ten years earlier than originally planned and only five years behind Norway, a country inherently rich in renewable energy where the uptake of EVs is already at 60 percent. Hybrid cars will enjoy five year’s grace before also being wound down.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that existing petrol or diesel cars will also be forced off the road, although question marks remain over possible increases in taxation, either through fuel or road pricing, that ultimately make them unviable.
Further questions exist over our readiness as a country to transition en masse to electrification. Part of the government’s initiative has set aside £4bn to improve both our national charging infrastructure and the production of batteries. Compare that to the projected cost of over £100bn for HS2 and you would be right to wonder if that is anywhere near enough. Whatever the outcome, the next nine years will be extraordinarily challenging for the transport sector as a whole.
There is a glimmer of hope for those of us agonising over the extinction of ICE. Synthetic fuel is currently undergoing accelerated development and Porsche is taking the lead. In September of this year, Head of Research and Development Michael Steiner revealed that Porsche is entering into partnerships with third parties to explore the viability of synthetic, carbon neutral fuel, stating simply that ‘with electricity alone, you can't move forward fast enough.’ A telling change of course from the more evangelical proclamations about EVs being made 12 months earlier.
“This technology is particularly important because the combustion engine will continue to dominate the automotive world for many years to come,” Steiner went on. "If you want to operate the existing fleet in a sustainable manner, eFuels are a fundamental component. We have a team that is looking for suitable partners who want to build pilot plants with us and prove that the entire process chain works and can be industrialised."
So-called eFuels are very similar to kerosene, diesel or petrol in terms of their basic properties, but instead of being processed from crude oil they are produced from CO2 and hydrogen using renewable energy. The key differentiator is that, by using CO2 as a raw material rather than a waste product, eFuels can become climate-neutral. It’s early days of course, and the EV revolution will go ahead unchecked, but there is light at the end of tunnel for those of us with petrol in the veins.