Mercedes says synthetic fuel not a viable option

German firm will flow money into electrification efforts instead.

The use of synthetic fuels in cars isn’t viable in the mid-term, according to Mercedes research and development boss Markus Schäfer, who said the firm is focusing investment on electrifying its cars.

While some manufacturers – such as Bentley, Mazda, McLaren and Volkswagen – are seriously researching synthetic fuels as a credible alternative to petrol and diesel as well as newer and cleaner alternatives, Schäfer said Mercedes won’t go that way.

“We have made a clear decision that our way will be electric first,” he said. “When we develop new platforms, we think electric first. We have to watch regulations and customer behaviour, but this will be our main road.”

Explaining his reservations concerning synthetic fuels, Schäfer said: “If you have an abundance of energy, the best use is to put it directly into a battery. To transform green energy into an e-fuel is a process where you lose a lot of efficiency.

“If there were more clean energies available, then the first customers would probably be in the aviation industry. Far, far later – I don’t see this in the next 10 years – will come the car industry.”

Mazda’s research on the topic is around recyclable liquid fuels made from microalgae, while McLaren is looking at a CO2-neutral synthetic fuel to power its V8.

Audi got as far as producing its own synthetic petrol and diesel for testing in 2018, while Volkswagen’s technical chief recently said that such fuels will extend the life of the combustion engine, despite the VW Group’s huge investment in electrification.

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