The race to find alternative power sources for automobiles has been going on for decades – with only the last few years showing any real headway. Experts believe that eventually, the internal combustion engine (what makes most modern cars function) will soon go the way of the dinosaurs, ironic, to say the least.
Many automakers are dashing to find alternative fuel sources to buy this model of engines some more. If one were to spend any time online reading about green alternatives, basic terms such as ethanol, hydrogen fuel cells, and biodiesel would become common knowledge.
However, the real question is, are these synthetic fuels worth the effort? Like any new advanced technology, there are pros and cons to consider.
There are countless reasons to push further development of synthetic fuels for internal combustion engines. The largest one being precisely that – size. Batteries are arguably one of the most sustainable alternatives when it comes to power sources. However, we as a society have yet to develop a battery strong or large enough to effectively power alternative means of travel, such as planes, ships, and construction vehicles.
Synthetic fuels have a similar energy density to gasoline. In other words, it takes up less space to have an engine fueled by synthetic fuels than it would in a battery with the same level of output.
Another bonus for synthetic fuels – they have less concern in regards to external conditions such as temperature. Batteries don’t operate as well in colder climates and thus will likely always posit a complication for battery-operated cars.
The last and perhaps biggest pro for many in the industry – switching to synthetic fuels wouldn’t require new engines – or the vehicles to go with them. That makes them much more approachable for a larger audience, not to mention more affordable. At least in the short term.
Conversely, some cons come with the idea of synthetic fuels. The most apparent being that synthetic fuels are not as sustainable as green alternatives. A battery can be recharged through renewable sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines. Fuels will never have that options.
Another natural problem with synthetic fuels would be the supply. Currently, there is simply no way that supply could meet demand. Assuming every person in the US switched to synthetic fuels, they would need around 45-50 billion liters – a year. Meanwhile, the production output for one synthetic fuel company is only projected to be about 55 million liters a year. The numbers do not match up.
Finally, it all comes back around to sustainability. Could the industry keep up production long-term? That’s an excellent question. A lot of energy goes into making synthetic fuels – arguably as much as, if not more than, what it would take to charge a battery. Likewise, it does take base materials to create, which have efficiency concerns.