Air QualityBiofuelElectrificationEnvironment & ClimateFossil FuelsSustainability

Decarbonisation technologies for current petrol & hybrid passenger vehicle fleets can support reductions in transport emissions now.

By June 2, 2022 No Comments

A recent report by ePure – European Renewable Ethanol, has highlighted the need for a multiple fuel approach to car emissions reductions.

With the introduction of E10 in the UK, other ethanol products ranging from E10 up to E85 have already been shown to reduce emissions & can be utilised by petrol & hybrid vehicle fleets which are already on the roads.

ePure explored the findings of EU climate research consultancy Gear Up who assessed various renewable fuel & drivetrain options for climate action in the passenger car sector, based on their greenhouse gas emission abatement costs. Among some of its key findings were:

  • Currently, renewable ethanol blends, ranging from E10 (with up to 10% ethanol) to E85 (with up to 85% ethanol), are the most cost-effective solutions to decarbonise the petrol passenger car segment.
  • Considering the current GHG intensity of the EU electricity mix and conditions for battery production, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) save less GHG emissions than a regular internal combustion engine car running on E85 fuel on a full-life-cycle basis.
  • The savings achieved by the introduction of electric vehicles are insufficient to reach 2030 climate targets, and therefore additional measures are needed for the fleet of internal combustion engine vehicles that remain in the market well beyond 2030. (1)

The Gear Up report noted that the lowest savings were achieved by the lowest ethanol petrol blend options for conventional petrol cars & mild hybrid petrol cars. However, Gear Up noted that the results were presented from a single car point of view & when considering their effect on the complete fleet of petrol vehicles in the EU, higher total savings could be achieved than with most of the other options.

The largest impact made by ethanol is currently the E85 blend. Currently E85 achieves higher emission savings than BEVs on grid electricity.  Battery-electric cars charged via the EU-27 average grid electricity mix achieve less lifecycle greenhouse gas savings than conventional petrol cars and mild-hybrids on high ethanol blends of 85 volume% bioethanol.

Due to the lower energy density of E85, the cars running on E85 need to consume more fuels, which limits the greenhouse gas emission savings potential. Despite renewable electricity showing the second-lowest greenhouse gas intensity among the compared options & battery-electric cars showing the highest vehicle efficiency amongst the powertrains; the cradle-to-grave powertrain impacts remain sufficiently large.

One of the largest issues facing the transport sector is how to approach decarbonisation now while alternative fuel infrastructures are still in their development stages.

“While we wait for new technologies to mature & new infrastructure to support them, ethanol is already making a difference. This new research confirms the importance of diversifying solutions. Domestically produced renewable ethanol is an immediate, sustainable, cost-effective & socially inclusive solution to moving beyond fossil fuel.” Simona Vackeová, interim Secretary General of ePURE,

This is not the first time that a multi fuel/energy approach has been researched to discover ways to combat transport emissions with the current fleets of petrol & hybrid passenger vehicles.

In 2018 the Concawe report with research carried out by Ricardo, opened a discussion on how we should continue to embrace a selection of power sources for transportation & energy, rather than putting all resources into battery & electrification.

The Concawe report brought to light specific evidence which explored the impact of entire electrification across Europe & one area was the immense cost implications for ensuring electrification could be sustained.

The Concawe report highlighted the use of a combination energy & fuel scenario which would still be able to reduce emissions by the expected & dictated levels by 2050. The Concawe report evaluated the use of a combination of low carbon fuels, with biofuel & artificially synthesized eFuels. (3)

At the time the Concawe report was published, low carbon fuels, biofuel & artificially synthesized eFuels were seen to work alongside electrification. The report further noted that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) could benefit from the increased use of bio-fuel & eFuels.

Therefore, even four years ago the research was already asking pertinent questions about the use of multiple fuel alternatives for the current fleets of petrol & hybrid cars on the roads, as an alternative to pushing for full electrification.

Professor Neville Jackson, Group Technology Director – Ricardo plc at Ricardo UK Ltd &  chairman of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership said in the 2018 report:

“The results of this work show that despite advantages for electrification of transport there are also significant environmental & infrastructure challenges. In particular, the analysis suggests that we will achieve more GHG reduction faster & at less cost if we drive towards a mix of electrification and low carbon, clean fuel.”

Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2