As regards to mobility, change is the sign of the times. From politicians and researchers to visionaries and traditionalists, everyone is discussing potential models of the future. Myriad scenarios are conceivable. After all, greenhouse gas emissions have not dropped significantly since 1990 – especially in the transportation sector. One reason is the rise in road traffic as vehicles are becoming increasingly fuel efficient. But where are we headed? The petroleum industry plays an important role in finding the answer. The sector recently presented its concept entitled ‘Clean Fuels for All,’ which was covered in a Handelsblatt article. Marc Schulte, bp Press Spokesperson for Germany, explains in this op-ed what is behind this approach.
Being mobile is important to people. That is why experts expect mobility to continue growing. According to a study by the Institute of Traffic Research of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) Germany’s population will use passenger and commercial vehicles to travel 900 billion kilometres a year from 2040 onwards – up about 25% on 2010. Electromobility takes centre stage in public debates, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that the internal combustion engine will continue to play a major role. In concrete terms, even if Germany had twelve million electric vehicle registrations by 2030, at least 30 million conventional cars with petrol or diesel engines or hybrid drives would remain on our roads.
It is thus paramount to be open to new developments and search for the best solution. And this is precisely what the concept from the European petroleum industry builds on: Since liquid fuels will remain indispensable in the coming decade, we absolutely must reduce their CO2-emissions. One major option alongside climate-efficient biofuels is synthetic fuels based on green electricity, which can gradually replace fossil energy sources. Increased use of synthetic fuels could lower Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions by an annual 100 million metric tons – by as early as 2035.
Key factors in this respect are Power to X technologies and green hydrogen. These can be harnessed to craft the key technology of future power supply. Low-carbon green hydrogen obtained from electrolysis plants running on renewable energy can be used in refineries to produce petrol or diesel – or even synthetic fuels. Critics caution that planned green electricity generation would have to be stepped up considerably in order to produce synthetic fuels in Germany. However, this argument against using synthetic fuels in domestic passenger vehicles does not hold water from a global perspective. After all, the world market has sunny regions offering many possibilities to produce synthetic fuels – especially for passenger vehicles. That is why the German government’s hydrogen strategy increasingly banks on “tomorrow’s climate-friendly oil.”
So it is true: In the 21st century, renewable energy will take on the role played by coal and oil in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, Germany and the European Union will only be able to achieve their mobility climate goals by employing various drive technologies
Photo credit: MWV Fuels Europe