Porsche CEO Oliver Blume plots carbon-neutral flat sixes

Oliver Blume maps out Porsche’s sustainable future

CEO Oliver Blume has confirmed Porsche is on target to comfortably meet the EU’s stringent fleet CO2 emissions target for 2021. In an official interview, he also hinted that combustion-powered Porsches could survive indefinitely thanks to synthetic fuels. “Five years ago, nobody would have believed that Porsche could meet the fleet CO2 emission value,” says Blume. “Porsche is an innovative, driving force in this area. As a sports car manufacturer, we will be below the average fleet emission value by 2021 already. And in sustainable terms, too,” he reckons.

Oliver Blume maps out Porsche’s sustainable future

Oliver Blume maps out Porsche’s sustainable future

For the record, the EU target for 2021 is an average emission of 95g/km of CO2 across a manufacturer’s fleet of new vehicles. Manufacturers will pay a penalty of €95 per g/km for excess emissions on each vehicle registered, creating the possibility of huge fines for volume manufacturers missing the target.

Since 2014, Porsche has reduced the CO2 emissions of its cars by a staggering 75 per cent. The real-world accuracy of such figures, which are based on government emissions tests that some argue don’t account for the full energy cycle with regard to plug-in cars, can be debated. But Porsche’s progress has been dramatic by any reasonable measure.

Porsche is also pursuing sustainability in its manufacturing operations. “All Porsche sites in Germany have been using 100 per cent green electricity for the last three years,” Blume says. What’s more, despite the growth of Porsche’s production volumes over that period by over 80 per cent, the amount of energy used during manufacturing actually shrunk by around 30 per cent.

Overall, Porsche’s plan is to achieve total carbon neutrality. “Porsche is striving to become a zero-impact company, in other words a company without a CO2 footprint,” Blume says while conceding the huge scale of the task. “We have taken the first positive steps, but there is still a lot we have to do.”

But what about the idea of synthetic fuels and the tantalising prospect of a sustainable long term future for combustion Porsches? In theory, any hydrocarbon fuel, such as petrol, can be synthesised using hydrogen extracted from water and carbon scrubbed from the atmosphere.

If the energy used for these processes is entirely sustainable, then the prospect of a fully carbon-neutral combustion engine is created. A combustion engine burning carbon-neutral synthesised petrol only emits that carbon which was removed from the atmosphere when manufacturing the fuel. A closed carbon loop, in other words.

Arguably the most appealing aspect of such synthetic fuels is that they effectively turn existing combustion cars into carbon-neutral transportation. That would include everything from a late model GT3 spinning at 9000rpm to the earliest of classic 356s. Similarly, the distribution and fuelling infrastructure already exists, en masse. “In terms of our perspectives, we are also examining the potential of synthetic fuels because we see future possibilities for all our existing vehicles,” Blume explains.

Such fuels are also a preference for Blume because he and Porsche generally favour avoidance and reduction to offsetting when it comes to carbon emissions. Porsche does offer a programme called “Porsche Impact” in which customers can offset the carbon footprint of their car. But Blume would prefer to minimise carbon emissions in the first place.

Anyway, if that all sounds a bit too good to be true, there’s inevitably a catch. Currently, Blume says, synthetic fuels are far too expensive to manufacture. Synthetic fuels are also much less efficient. “A battery is three times more efficient than the fuel cell and six times better than synthetic fuels,” he says.

Of course, if the energy used to create synthetic fuels is fully sustainable, then in environmental terms that’s not a problem. But it does feed back into cost. Generating clean energy costs money and it takes a lot of energy to synthesise fuels. For now, then, the fully carbon-neutral flat six remains a distant prospect. But not actually an impossibility. Here’s hoping.

Above right: A carbon neutral 911 with a flat-six running on synthetic fuel? It could happen, but the technology is currently too expensive to manufacture. Still, if anyone can, then Porsche can. Porsche CEO, Oliver Blume, has made bold claims for the sustainable future of the company, which will comfortably meet its 2021 CO2 fleet emission value across its model range.

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