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Audi fills up with renewable petrol

Good chemistry: Working with alternative fuel authority Global Bioenergies, Audi is scaling up its e-fuels projects, paving the way to a future without fossil-fuel fed internal combustion engines.

First delivery of experimental e-benzin delivered to Audi's labs

22 May 2015

AUDI has taken delivery of its first batch of high-octane synthetic petrol which, when produced in large quantities, has the potential to free the internal combustion engine from its dependance on fossil fuels.

The initial small production run of e-benzin has been created in conjunction with international alternative fuel giant Global Bioenergies, and was made entirely without the use of petroleum.

Instead of finite fossil fuels, the synthetic petrol is produced using renewable corn-derived glucose, but despite its earthy origin the resulting fuel is higher quality than conventional pump fuel.

Without a crude oil component, the e-benzin contains no sulphur or benzine promoting a cleaner combustion, while its high 100 octane rating makes it particularly good for high-performance applications including high compression and turbocharged engines.

The fuel starts as a synthetic hydrocarbon called Isobutene, but is converted via a simple separation process into pure Isooctane.

The synthetic octane can be used as an additive to improve the quality of standard petrol, but the German car-maker is exploring its possibilities as a standalone fuel.

Global Bioenergies can only produce relatively small batches of the ultra-clean fuel in its French industrial facility, but the company is building a new installation in Leipzig, Germany, which will upscale the process.

In time, the collaborating companies say the process will be modified so that no biomass is required to make the fuel, instead using just the components needed by the corn plant – water, hydrogen, CO2 and sunlight.

With the expertise of Global Bioenergies, Audi is also exploring the potential of other renewable fuels such as e-gas synthetic methane, e-ethanol and e-diesel.

In addition to fuels, the synthesised hydrocarbons can also replace the organic compounds necessary to produce other important automotive materials, including plastics, rubber and elastomers.

Audi head of sustainable product development Reiner Margold said the first delivery marked an important step in the company's e-fuels research projects and the partnership.

“The confirmation that Global Bioenergies’ renewable isobutene is compatible with a commonly used fossil isobutene to isooctane conversion technology represents a key step on our way to Audi e-benzin,” he said.

“We are now looking forward to working together with Global Bioenergies on a technology allowing the production of renewable isooctane not derived from biomass sources, following Audi’s e-fuels strategy.”

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