Porsche has announced a new long-term stake amounting to US$75 million in HIF Global LLC, a Chilean synthetic fuel developer specializing in the production of “near carbon-neutral” e-fuel.
A long-time proponent of synthetic fuels, Porsche’s investment will secure the German sports car brand a 12.5 per cent stake in HIF, the latter of which recently started construction of a new eFuel production facility in Punta Arenas, Chile. Developed in association with HIF partners Siemens Energy and ExxonMobil, the electricity-based process essentially uses wind power to turn hydrogen and CO2 into a liquid fuel. The product is said to work with any combustion engine – give or take a bit of finagling – allowing the drivetrain to work in a “potentially almost CO2-neutral manner,” rendering the need for a brand-new drivetrain moot.
Production at the Haru Oni eFuel pilot set to begin in mid-2022.
“eFuels make an important contribution to climate protection and complement our electromobility in a meaningful way,” Porsche’s Barbara Frenkel, Member of the Executive Board for Procurement, explains. “By investing in industrial eFuel production, Porsche is further expanding its commitment to sustainable mobility. In total, our investment in the development and provision of this innovative technology amounts to more than US$100 million.”
“We see ourselves as pioneers in eFuels and want to drive the technology,” Porsche R&D executive board member Michael Steiner explains. “This is one building block in our clear, overall sustainability strategy.”
Synthetic eFuel is thus seen as an addition to, rather than replacement for, electric propulsion in Porsche’s sustainability strategy. The marque already offers electrified ‘e-Performance’ examples of its Cayenne SUV and Panamera luxury sedan, as well as the fully-electric Taycan, and has already pledged that up to 80 per cent of its sales will come from EVs by 2030. Purely electric versions of the 718 Cayman and Boxster are also expected to arrive by 2025.
However, while Porsche’s tests and initial plans for renewable fuel revolves around its “motorsport flagship projects” – most likely its factory World Endurance Championship and IMSA programs – it’s expected that the flagship 911 will spearhead the company’s synthetic fuels on the road. While speculation regarding an all-electric 911 has done the rounds recently, Porsche is loath to overhaul the rear-engined, six-cylinder boxer, 2+2 concept that has defined the 911 for almost 60 years. Carbon neutral eFuel would be an ideal alternative, and though unconfirmed officially, Porsche has stated it is “conceivable” synthetic fuel could be used “to fuel the company’s own vehicles with combustion engines during initial fuelling at the factory.”
The Chilean facility is just the start of HIF’s global decarbonization business, with two more industrial eFuel plant set to be built in the US and Australia, “which have large supplies of renewable energy.” Porsche is also just one of several high-profile investors, which also include the Andes Mining & Energy in Chile, and EIG, the Baker Hughes Company and Gemstone Investments in America. The collective has said to have endorsed HIF’s eFuel enterprise to the tune of “an amount in the low nine-figure USD range.”