Enlarge / This is Soletair’s synthetic fuel production pilot plant, which the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology says is “designed for decentralized production, fits into a shipping container, and can be extended modularly.” (Photo: VTT) (credit: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/ Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT))
In a white paper released this month, German auto parts maker Bosch argued for increased development of carbon-neutral synthetic diesel and gas—that is, fuel made from carbon dioxide and (ideally renewable) electricity.
Such fuel emits carbon dioxide when it’s burned, but it also captures carbon dioxide as it’s being made, so it’s considered carbon neutral.

Bosch researchers said moving to synthetic fuel could prevent the release of an additional 2.8 gigatons of CO2 in Europe between 2025 and 2050.
Synthetic fuels aren’t anything new, but they’re far more costly to produce than fossil-fuel-derived oil and gas.

Fischer-Tropsch diesel is one kind of synthetic fuel that can be produced with carbon monoxide and hydrogen, creating a substance chemically identical to fossil fuel-based diesel.

Another kind of synthetic fuel is made from oxymethylene ethers (OME), but OME fuel often requires retrofits to existing diesel engines before it can be burned in them, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Both are prohibitively expensive to produce compared to diesel made from fossil fuels.
But Bosch says investing in synthetic fuels is necessary to achieving Europe’s decarbonization goals.

The company’s researchers also argue that the cost of synthetic fuel will fall with economies of scale and sufficient learning. “The transport sector has to achieve near-complete independence of fossil fuels by 2050 according to International Energy Agency models,” the Bosch white paper states. Long term, electrification could achieve this, but Bosch thinks that in the short timeframe we have, it may not be possible to replace the globe’s fleet (or even Europe’s fleet) with electric and fuel cell vehicles.
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