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Aramco and Dutch car maker make low-carbon fuel

Aramco Stellantis Reuters/Stephane Mahe
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares (second left) at the launch of a new Jeep in 2022. Such models already on Europe's roads could use the new e-fuel
  • CO2 emissions cut by 70%
  • Fuel will work with 24m existing cars
  • Hydrogen-based technology

Saudi oil major Aramco and Dutch car maker Stellantis have developed an e-fuel that will work without modifications in the engines of some 24 million vehicles already on European roads and using conventional petrol. 

Recent tests showed the low-carbon fuel could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing internal combustion vehicles by at least 70 percent, the companies announced this week.

Produced by Aramco, the fuels are made by reacting carbon dioxide, captured either directly from the atmosphere or from an industrial facility, with renewable hydrogen.

Estimates about the number of vehicles they could work in are based on 24 Stellantis engine types used in European vehicles sold since 2014. 

“Drop-in e-fuels can have a massive and almost immediate impact on reducing the CO2 emissions of the existing vehicle fleet,” said Stellantis engineering and technology chief Ned Curic. 

The result of a 2021 merger between Italian-US firm Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot maker PSA, Amsterdam-based Stellantis is the third largest car maker by sales, with its brand portfolio also including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Opel, Jeep and Maserati.

This year the EU this year opened a legal exemption for vehicles running on e-fuels to remain on sale beyond a 2035 deadline for phasing out carbon dioxide-emitting cars. 

It is not yet clear what the cost of Stellantis-Aramco e-fuel would be for the consumer in comparison to standard fuels. 

Stellantis said it intends to halve its carbon footprint from 2021 levels by 2030 and become net zero by 2038. 

The world’s biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is trying to become a pioneer in renewable energy technologies via its Vision 2030 project to diversify away from oil revenues. 

Hydrogen has been a focus of attention as competition to find cheaper and more green batteries and generators intensifies. 

UK hydrogen fuel cell company AFC Energy signed an agreement with a leading Saudi marketer to sell its hydrogen generators in the Middle East and Central Asia.

A partnership between US firm Pure Lithium and the Saudi-based Energy Capital Group aims to produce pure lithium batteries from oilfield brines in Saudi Arabia, in a bid to outpace conventional lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars. 

Most major car makers are betting on electric vehicles using batteries as the main route to cut CO2 emissions from passenger cars.

But oil majors and some car makers are also pursuing e-fuels like e-kerosene, e-methane or e-methanol.

Although they still release carbon dioxide when used in car engines, the emissions are theoretically offset by the amount taken out of the atmosphere to produce the fuel, making e-fuels CO2-neutral overall.