Porsche invests €1bn in decarbonisation - and e-fuels could save the flat six

Published: 19 March 2021

 Porsche develops synthetic 'e-fuels'
 Internal combustion engines to live on?
 Porsche invests €1bn in low-carbon future

Porsche has used its annual press conference to double down on its commitment to sustainability, while also making clear it believes there’s much more to CO2 reduction than electrification alone. It’s convinced combustion engines running on synthetic fuels also have a role to play, in motorsport, in road cars and in classics, too. 

‘The problem is not the internal combustion engine itself, it's the fuel you burn,’ explains Dr Michael Steiner, Porsche’s R&D boss. ‘We have to do a lot of work in order to come down on CO2 emissions, definitely, and we are totally committed to this. But the problem is not the engine itself.

‘We would like to show that e-fuels are a feasible technology with certain volumes – there are a lot of questions, and people who are not convinced that this will work. So, we have to show them. The decision is not one to be taken by our side alone, of course, but we will do all we can to see if this is solution for highly emotional cars, for racing, and also for on road cars. Our job, at least as research and development, is to show what's technically possible. The next step is to convince people that there might be not the need to ban everything.’

As things stand, the UK government has moved to ban the sale of new cars powered by combustion engines alone from 2030.

Synthetic fuels are used by engines in the conventional way, creating heat, power and emissions, but their production involves processes that are carbon-neutral or even capable of off-setting the CO2 released during combustion. Audi’s been working on such fuels for a number of years, and Porsche has announced it too is stepping up its R&D spend on the technology. 

Porsche flat six: life in the old dog yet

CEO Oliver Blume: ‘Our gasoline engines are consistently being developed further. They are becoming more and more efficient with every new generation and we see e-fuels as a way of having an almost neutral type of fuel. Together with our partners, for instance Siemens, we are pushing the industrialisation of e-fuels with an investment of around €20 million in a pilot plant to prepare this technology for the large scale.

‘We think there could be applications for e-fuels in motorsports, in vehicle testing, when first filling our new vehicles, in our plants in Porsche experience centres. With e-fuels, Porsche classic cars and hybrid models could drive in the future almost neutrally, and current sports cars like the 911 that allow for fully electric due to their concepts could drive almost CO2-neutrally in the future thanks to e-fuels.’ 

Blume has previously suggested that the 911 will be the last Porsche to electrify, if at all, given how fundamental the rear-mounted flat-six engine is to the timeless sports car. Might e-fuels ride to the 911’s rescue? 

For more on the end of engines, check out the April 2021 issue of CAR magazine, on sale now

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three