Audi just announced it is producing e-ethanol and e-diesel by combining salt or waste water with waste CO2, sunlight and special microorganisms.
Audi engineers have contributed to a “breakthrough of almost miraculous proportions” in the words of Audi by helping to develop fuels for the TFSI and TDI engines of the very near future using nothing more than lengths of ordinary-looking pipe, waste CO2, sunlight and microscopic organisms suspended in waste water.
The new “wonder-fuels” have been developed by Audi and its U.S.-based specialist fuels partner Joule.
The “refineries” responsible for them are the photosynthetic microorganisms injected into brackish water standing in the lengths of pipe. Measuring around three thousandths of a millimeter in diameter, these organisms have been genetically modified to prevent them from multiplying using the sunlight-aided photosynthesis process as they normally would.
Instead, they are stimulated to use this process to convert the waste CO2 and the waste water into liquid fuels which they then secrete, and which can then be easily separated from the water and concentrated without the need for any further manufacturing steps.
The unparalleled global viability of these new fuels lies not only in the simple and relatively inexpensive process which creates them, but also in the fact that the ‘feedstock’ used to produce them is entirely renewable.
The crop-based biomass that has traditionally been a key constituent of synthetic fuels, and that could often otherwise be used for human consumption, is not required here. This has the added advantage of removing the need to locate the fuel production facility near habitable or arable land – a remote desert facility is entirely feasible.
Proof of this fact can be found in an unfertile, sun-baked region of the US state of New Mexico, where Audi and Joule have commissioned a demonstration facility which is already producing sustainable e-ethanol.
This e-ethanol has the same chemical properties as bioethanol, a fuel which is consistently gaining in popularity, but which has the disadvantage of being produced using biomass.
It will be possible to blend up to 85 percent of Audi’s e-ethanol with as little as 15 percent fossil-fuel petrol for use by vehicles capable of running on E85 fuel.
Audi and Joule say they are also currently in the process of ramping up the same facility to produce a sustainable and exceptionally pure “Audi e-diesel” fuel.
In contrast to petroleum-based diesel, which is a mixture of a wide variety of organic compounds, this e-diesel fuel is not only free of sulfur and aromatics, but is also easy to ignite thanks to its high cetane value, giving it exceptional performance credentials that promote outstanding engine operating efficiency.
Audi e-diesel can be used in any existing Audi TDI clean diesel systems without the need for modification.
The partnership between Audi and Joule has been in place since 2011. Joule has protected its technology with patents for which Audi has acquired exclusive rights in the automotive field. Audi engineers with extensive know-how in the areas of fuel and engine testing are helping to further develop these fuels so that they can genuinely be brought to market.
No commercialization date has yet been announced.