It looks like Audi found another "Truth in Engineering": It's possible to make diesel fuel from just water and carbon dioxide. This could be a climate-change game-changer.
The company's pilot plant, which is operated by German startup Sunfire in Dresden, produced its first batches of the so-called "e-diesel" this month.
Gizmag explains how it's made:
The base fuel is referred to as "blue crude," and begins by taking electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar or hydropower and using it to produce hydrogen from water via reversible electrolysis. The hydrogen is then mixed with CO2 that has been converted into CO in two chemical processes and the resulting reactions produce a liquid made from long-chain hydrocarbons — this is blue crude, which is then refined to create the end product, the synthetic e-diesel.
Currently, Audi says, the carbon dioxide used in the process is currently supplied by a biogas facility but, in order to make the process even more green, they're also taking some of the CO2 directly from ambient air, which literally grabs the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.
Sunfire insists that the properties of the synthetic diesel are superior to fossil fuel, and that its lack of sulphur and fossil-based oil makes it more environmentally friendly. And according to Audi, the overall energy efficiency of the fuel creation process using renewable power is around 70% — a promising percentage, to be sure.
As is often already done with biodiesel fuels, the e-diesel can be combined with conventional diesel fuel.
"The engine runs quieter and fewer pollutants are being created," said Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen in a press release.
The pilot plant plans to produce about 42 gallons of this synthetic diesel per day in the coming months, which isn't going to make any kind of dent in the market just yet. The next step? A bigger plant, of course.
Sunfire predicts that the market price for the synthetic diesel could be between €1 and 1.50 (or $1.09 to 1.63) per liter, which is similarly priced to current diesel fuel in Europe, but slightly more expensive than in the U.S.
"If we get the first sales order, we will be ready to commercialize our technology," said von Olshausen.
To get even more excited for a guilt-free tear around the countryside in an Audi sports car, watch the promotional video below:
Screengrab via sunfire2013/YouTube