German Energy Company Claims Methanol Is ICE Savior

Obrist Group highlights the fantasy of switching a billion global vehicles to battery-electric power when ICE has clear cost and implementation advantage.

Paul Myles, European Editor

January 31, 2024

2 Min Read
Obrist Group Methanol
German carbon-neutral fuel company promotes methanol for sustainable transport.

Replacing the world’s internal-combustion-powered vehicles with battery-electric technology in the foreseeable future is pure fantasy.

That’s the assessment of the Obrist Group, a German organization focused on innovations for global, sustainable and CO2-neutral energy concepts. Founded by inventor and entrepreneur Frank Obrist, the group says it explores a range of potential internal-combustion-engine fuels and CO2-neutral drive concepts for the automotive industry and claims more than 200 patents.

Now Obrist says it’s time the automotive industry wakes up to the reality of ICEs' vital role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. He says: “It is unrealistic to believe that the global vehicle population of over 1 billion cars with combustion engines can be replaced by electric cars in the foreseeable future. Many countries around the world lack the political will, public acceptance and financial resources to switch to e-mobility for decades to come.”

As an alternative, he calls for the increased use of environmentally friendly synthetic fuels (e-fuels) in combustion powertrains as being suggested for the European Union’s 2035 deadline that will only allow the sale of new vehicles as BEVs or able to run on carbon-neutral fuels. He argues that when taking into account the whole carbon footprint of vehicles and the energy sources they are fed on, ICE technology still has the advantage over BEV in most nations.

Obrist says: “Ultimately, it's about the overall carbon footprint, including battery production, power generation, the construction of new infrastructure, the potential scrapping of more than a billion vehicles and the production of synthetic fuels from renewable energy sources – and electromobility performs significantly worse than modern e-fuels in the overall balance.”

His organization, which uses the term atmospheric fuels (aFuels) as a collective term, claims the patents on a methanol production process that he argues could hold the key to rapid decarbonization of the transport industry. The production plants can be located in desert and barren land locations and piped or transported by conventional tankers and trucks all using the clean fuel themselves.

The group claims it has established the economic viability of the methanol concept that will be cheaper to implement and use than sustainable electricity production for BEVs. Obrist explains: “As soon as it becomes clear that all existing infrastructures, from transportation to cars with combustion engines, can continue to be used and that the costs are, therefore, much lower compared to electricity-based e-mobility, my discussion partners' eyes often glaze over. Instead of getting fossil fuels out of the ground, methanol is simply produced as a substitute fuel and everything else remains unchanged.

“Methanol production using our patented process removes more carbon dioxide from the air than is released during subsequent combustion. In other words: Every kilometer that a vehicle fueled with e-fuels travels improves the climate.”

About the Author(s)

Paul Myles

European Editor, Informa Group

Paul Myles is an award-winning journalist based in Europe covering all aspects of the automotive industry. He has a wealth of experience in the field working at specialist, national and international levels.

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