American company promises carbon-neutral petrol.
BMW has been operating in the alternative fuel development space for decades. A hydrogen-fuelled V12 engine was available on the e65 7 Series and BMW has often attempted to push its hydrogen technology, despite an absence of infrastructure support.
With regulators forcing traditional automotive companies into reducing their CO2, BMW is outsourcing some of its alternative fuel technology. The German company has announced a new investment in Prometheus Fuels.
BMW is allocating R215 million in funding for Prometheus, a Californian chemical technology company founded by Rob McGinnis. By using an advanced chemistry process, Prometheus Fuels claims to use recaptured CO2 (presumably from the atmosphere), for conversion into synthetic petrol, diesel and aviation fuel using solar power.
Although the process is very energy-intensive, with a theoretical efficiency of only 50%, Prometheus uses solar power, to reduce the carbon footprint of its production methods.
How does Prometheus make fuel for your car, from recaptured CO2? It uses catalysation, by exposing a solution of water CO2, interacting with an electrified copper plate. Incredibly dense filters block the water, only allowing through ethanol.
From this 95% grade ethanol, Prometheus can use zeolite catalysation to deliver more complex and popular fuel hydrocarbons such as petrol or diesel.
Using electricity to power the catalysation of fuel is not a revolutionary idea but doing it from a clean source is. BWW is desperate to have most of its global production assets on sustainable power during the next decade.
The company’s Rosslyn production facility already runs on 30% sustainable energy, supplied from a bio-gas project in Gauteng.
What makes the BMW investment in Prometheus Fuels interesting, is that how it does not seek to revolutionise engine technology or fuel supply and distribution. By putting money into Prometheus Fuels, BMW appears to be indicating that it would prefer for fuel and current internal combustion engine technology to remain unchanged – but powered from a sustainable solar source, in terms of production.