Audi has started production of a synthetic carbon-neutral diesel substitute that could secure the future of the internal combustion engine.
Working in collaboration with German energy specialist Sunfire, the premium automaker has demonstrated that a guilt-free future of driving ‘conventionally’ powered cars is still possible.
Audi’s ‘blue crude’ synthetic fuel, which is distilled from atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), means that conventional internal combustion drivetrains could remain viable as they would no longer rely on environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels.
In a world where automotive technology is rapidly shifting towards alternatively-powered drivetrains such as electric, hybrid or hydrogen, carbon-neutral synthetic petroleum substitutes are a beacon of hope for driving enthusiasts who prefer the rush of driving traditionally-powered vehicles.
“Carbon-neutral synthetic petroleum substitutes are a beacon of hope for traditional driving enthusiasts “
Blue crude is created by using electrolysis to split steam into hydrogen and oxygen, and then by reacting the newly-obtained hydrogen with CO2 captured from the atmosphere to form a liquid consisting of long chains of hydrocarbons – the same group of molecules that make up petroleum.
This liquid, blue crude, can be refined much in the same way that petroleum can be – and Audi has done exactly that to produce a road-ready fuel called ‘e-diesel’.
“In developing Audi e-diesel, we are promoting another fuel based on CO2 that will allow long‑distance mobility with virtually no impact on the climate”, explained Reiner Mangold, Head of Sustainable Product Development at Audi.
“Using CO2 as a raw material represents an opportunity not just for the automotive industry in Germany, but also to transfer the principle to other sectors and countries.”
Crucially, e-diesel burns cleanly and without any toxic by-products, such as sulphur.
At the moment, Audi’s test plant in Dresden synthesises only 160 litres of fuel per day and its blue crude undertaking is, for now, only a research project.
However, plans are in place to construct a bigger factory in order to upscale production to a commercial scale.
To see blue crude in action, watch the video below:
Image credit: Audi / Sunfire / Formula Future