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28-02-2024 | Internal Combustion Engine | Editor´s Pick | News

Combustion Engines for Climate Protection

Authors: Dr. Alexander Heintzel, Marc Ziegler

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The 11th edition of the International Engine Congress took place in Baden-Baden on February 27 and 28, 2024. With 280 participants on site and a further 50 who have joined online.

In his welcoming address, Scientific Director of the Congress and Editor-in-Charge Prof. Peter Gutzmer once again emphasized the urgent need for technology-open development and referred to the ongoing negotiations at European level. Gutzmer emphasized the global relevance of the combustion engine and its role in effective climate protection. He also pointed out that consumers are not prepared to follow the path towards fully electric vehicles. "No technology has ever prevailed due to coercion," said Gutzmer.

In his keynote speech, Prof. Dieter Grebe, Managing Director of AVL List, gave an outlook on the role of the combustion engine in the global energy mix. In his opinion, the almost linear increase in man-made CO2 emissions over the past 60 years cannot be reversed without measures such as carbon capture. The global fleet of existing vehicles also urgently needs to be considered and upgraded. The use of E20 alone could reduce CO2 emissions by 10 % by 2030. Hydrogen carriers for transportation should ideally require energy for production at the production site and not at the place of use in order to keep the overall footprint as small as possible. Molecular energy storage systems are needed to represent the energy industry, which means that methanol and synthetic fuels are automatically available. Due to CO2 legislation and in the long term, BEVs and FCEVs are the right way to go, according to Grebe, but the proportion of biogenic fuels in the existing fleet needs to be increased quickly. From a global perspective, the European technology path taken with a sole focus on BEVs is very isolated. Japan is proving to be the antipode here with a clearly technology-open assessment of all possible drive technologies.

Japan Relies on Systemic Solutions

Takahiro Nagai, Deputy Director of NEDO in Japan, picked up the ball directly and presented what he described as Japan's realistic path towards a carbon-neutral society. NEDO serves as an advisory organization for the government. It is focusing on a strong diversification of measures, including the development of a hydrogen infrastructure. Production of synthetic fuels is also to be established by 2028. The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions from HEV and HD diesel drives by 55 %. Emissions from combustion engines must be reduced with technical progress and synthetic fuels, while at the same time achieving a breakthrough in electric vehicles.

Dr. Monika Griefahn, CEO of the eFuel Alliance, pointed out that e-mobility is an important factor, but cannot be used everywhere. The total global fleet of 1.3 to 1.4 billion vehicles must be operated in a more climate-friendly way: "Every liter of e-fuel is a direct contribution to climate protection." This must be implemented quickly in order to achieve significant economies of scale. Legislation is the sticking point, as the tank-to-wheel debate is still ongoing. "We hope that the new Commission will immediately reopen the discussion on a cradle-to-cradle approach."

At the end of the first session, Thorsten Herdan, CEO of HIF EMEA, described the change in the business model of a synthetic fuel production plant compared to the current models. The return on investment is in the region of 15 years. Haru-Oni is also important as a pilot plant, despite the enormous investment of 80 million euros, in order to gain experience and identify errors in the construction before scaling up. Herdan assumes that there will have to be a CO2 infrastructure in addition to carbon capture. HIF is currently building further plants in Uruguay, the USA and Chile. Methanol as a platform fuel can be shipped and refined at the point of use. "All products from this are renewable," says Herdan, "but the end product should be produced locally to ensure security of supply from different regions."

This is a partly automated translation of this German article.


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