Sunfire claims that analysis shows the properties of the synthetic diesel are superior to fossil fuel, and that its lack of sulphur and fossil-based oil makes it more environmentally friendly. The overall energy efficiency of the fuel creation process using renewable power is around 70 percent, according to Audi.
"The engine runs quieter and fewer pollutants are being created," says Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen.
The fuel can be combined with conventional diesel fuel, as is often done with biodiesel fuels already.
The Dresden pilot plant is set to produce about 42 gallons (160 l) of synthetic diesel per day in the coming months, and the two companies say the next step is to build a bigger plant.
"If we get the first sales order, we will be ready to commercialize our technology," von Olshausen says.
Sunfire anticipates that the market price for the synthetic diesel could be between 1 and 1.5 Euros per liter, which would be nearly competitive or a little more expensive than current diesel prices in Europe, but the actual figure will be largely dependent on the price of electricity.
One of the issues hydrogen fuel cell and similar technologies face is that they are dependent on the availability of cheap electricity to drive the process of separation or combination. The commercial utility of a water-to-diesel project as outlined above will be contingent on the cost of electricity coming down. As such the improving efficiency of solar cells and improvements in battery technology represent a major step forward for such technologies as the cost of electricity would be free from volatility and could conceivably trend lower in real terms over time.
We have been saying for years that unconventional oil and gas are gamechangers for the energy sector. Following the steep decline in oil and gas prices we can consider that this has now been priced into the market. However the potential for technology to have a similar disruptive influence over the next decade has similar gamechanging characteristics.
Back to top