The electric car, killed by the wind?  2021


Our cover story “Are e-fuels going to kill the electric car?” is deliberately provocative and the answer to this controversial question cannot be all white or all black. As often, the truth is found more in nuance and pragmatic, scientific analysis, than in partisan debates or bistro conversations. But it deserves to be posed in a political and industrial context which seems to consider the electric car as the only possible way (more and more manufacturers are indeed announcing only electric cars at sometimes very close deadlines), as a sort of panacea. which will cure all ailments, like a miraculous potion. What if there were other ways to achieve a decarbonisation of transport in general and therefore of our cars in particular? Among these alternatives, we must mention synthetic fuels, produced in the laboratory and no longer refined from fossil petroleum. The idea is not new and had already been tested by the Nazi regime in an attempt to circumvent its lack of access to oil at a certain period of the Second World War. But roughly 75 years, technology has obviously evolved and today, for example, we talk about producing synthetic gasoline from the capture of CO2 in the atmosphere, which would result in a neutral carbon footprint if the manufacturing process itself is powered by renewable energy. Like wind power, for example, or even solar power. Without going into very complex chemical details, this process, already being tested, in any case results in the production of an easily transportable and storable liquid fuel (unlike hydrogen and … electricity), can supply existing service station networks and therefore our current heat engines without major modifications, thereby bypassing the drawbacks associated with the electric car, in particular the very costly creation of a sufficiently dense network of terminals and recharging times which stay long. We can also cite anaerobic digestion from recycled plant materials (not to be confused with agrofuels or biofuels criticized for deforestation, the overuse of agricultural land and food products that they imply), and still others. means of producing these low-carbon synthetic fuels. Our report in this issue attempts to take stock of this crucial question at a time when it seems that the desire to impose the electric car is crushing everything in its path. But it is not always the one who shouts the loudest who is necessarily right. And maybe electric is a solution, sure, but why would it be the only one?

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