Innovation and Technology

Fuel strategy

The mobility and fuel strategy of the German government was presented in March 2013. It forms part of the German government’s energy concept and illustrates in an open technological way how the turnaround in energy policy can be implemented in Germany’s transport sector.

The mobility and fuel strategy

The mobility and fuel strategy of the German government was presented in March 2013. It forms part of the German government’s energy concept and illustrates in an open technological way how the turnaround in energy policy can be implemented in Germany’s transport sector. Within the concept, representatives of politics and the business and science communities have already agreed on the perspectives for fossil fuels and fuels based on renewable energies, new drive technologies and necessary supply infrastructure. The MFS is intended to identify alternative fuels and drives that can be put into widespread use. These are intended to reduce CO2 emissions and increase the proportion of renewable energies used in transport. The automotive industry has contributed intensively to the concept. The starting point is the familiar diversification strategy.

The CO2 and energy-saving targets of Germany make it necessary for new, alternative and renewable drives and fuels to be included in the transport energy concept. At the same time – as in the diversification strategy – there is no ideal solution. Instead, all alternative technology approaches must be seriously pursued. Classic powertrains and fuels should not be neglected, and by the same token CO2-neutral forms of propulsion involving batteries and fuel cells should be developed as well.

The objective of the fuel and drive strategy pursued by the German automotive industry is to increasingly reduce the use of carbon in transport. This can be achieved with increasingly efficient drives, low CO2 fuels and CO2-neutral or CO2 -free sources of energy such as battery-powered vehicles or the fuel cell. Biofuels will also take their place in a nationwide fuel strategy for Germany. In future, the question of whether biofuels are from the first, second or third generation will not be so important. Rather, it will be a matter of how many biofuels can be used on a sustainable basis, and what development potential exists both for conventional and new biofuels. In addition, a fuel strategy also needs to address the question of which biofuels are of particular strategic importance, and need to be promoted and considered accordingly. Furthermore, the specifics of the mode of transport must be taken into account in this fuel strategy. Without doubt, a battery-powered long-distance truck is just as unrealistic as a hydrogen-fuelled motorcycle.

The mobility and fuel strategy of the German government is based on national and European energy and CO2-saving targets. Taking account of the general technical conditions of modes of transport and the general conditions of energy policy, it contains specific recommendations for road transport. Today, road transport is still largely dependent on diesel. Alternatives to the diesel powertrain will have to be developed in the future. Methane represents an outstanding source of energy for all types of application, and should be developed further. LNG in particular is an alternative that has a bright future in road goods transport.

Compared to an equivalent petrol engine, natural gas has a CO2 advantage of more than 20 percent. The outstanding fuel properties of natural gas (good anti-knock properties, very homogenous fuel) mean that natural gas powertrains are very clean. An engine optimized for this fuel offers significant energy-saving potential. The German government has recognized the outstanding importance of natural gas, and consequently in the Coalition Treaty it has decided to extend the tax breaks offered for natural gas beyond 2018. The VDA now expects these decisions by the coalition to be rapidly implemented in tax legislation.

Natural gas can be used in both compressed and liquefied form. In cars, natural gas is used in compressed form. Nowadays, compact natural gas pressurized tanks permit ranges in excess of 400 km when driving on natural gas – in addition to the possibility of running on petrol as well. In heavy goods traffic, there is the pressurized tank solution, which represents one method – including when fitted in the underfloor area of trailers. However, storing natural gas in liquefied form – i.e., at a very low temperature – represents an attractive option for long-distance haulage because of the significantly increased energy density. The first LNG vehicles have come onto the market. In the course of increasing development of an LNG infrastructure, the VDA is also expecting the number of LNG-powered vehicles to increase significantly.

Natural gas can be substituted by biogenic components. This fuel, referred to as biomethane is chemically equivalent to natural gas, but because of its biogenic creation it has a very small CO2 footprint. Biomethane can be manufactured via the classic biogas production route, with subsequent processing to regularize the quality of the biogas. From the CO2 perspective and with regard to efficient use of space, biogas is currently the best biofuel that is available in large quantities

Manufacturing biomethane from electricity represents a new and ground-breaking approach. “Green hydrogen” is produced from renewable and preferably surface electricity, then converted into methane using a synthetization process. This methane can be input into the natural gas mains, thus making it available to CNG customers at any refueling point in Germany. A production plant operated by Audi demonstrates that this technology can be operated efficiently and on a grand scale.

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