Ineos: synthetic fuels too expensive to replace petrol and diesel

Ineos Automotive is pessimistic that synthetic fuels can extend the life of the combustion engine, even after the EU decided to allow limited use of the carbon-neutral petrol alternative for new cars after 2035.

“At the moment, there’s just not enough synthetic fuel to go around, and it’s going to be extremely expensive,” CEO Lynn Calder told the Financial Times Future of the Car Summit on Wednesday.

The maker of the Ineos Grenadier off-roader has been sharply critical of the EU and UK bans on the sale of new ICE cars from 2035, arguing that it forces car makers towards battery-electric drivetrains without admitting alternatives.

Synthetic fuels or e-fuels, which are made by extracting atmospheric carbon, are touted by firms including Porsche and Bugatti as an eco-friendly alternative that would allow them to continue selling ICE cars. However, Ineos isn’t certain that synthetic fuels could fill the gap.

“It feels like it’s a really long way off, in terms of having sufficient fuel to imagine keeping a combustion engine fleet alive at a cost that is a total cost of ownership for customers that would be acceptable,” Calder said.

Ineos is running a prototype hydrogen fuel cell version of the Grenadier, which links the car operations with the wider parent company and its chemical operations, including making hydrogen. 

Ineos Automotive boss Lynn Calder

However, company founder and chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe has previously said the hydrogen also suffers from high cost, along with a lack of fuelling infrastructure.

“You come back to the economics of production and the infrastructure required [with hydrogen],” Ratcliffe said at the unveiling of the Ineos Fusilier SUV. 

“In the US, it costs one fifth what it does in Europe to make hydrogen, so in the EU you will have to pay €500-600 a tank for fuel versus €120-130 a tank in the US.”

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