July 5, 2020

McLaren thinks synthetic fuel could save the engine as we know it

A whole new fuel? Maybe.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The automotive industry is largely focused on one area when it comes to future powertrains: battery-electric technology. A few still plant to keep a couple of eggs in the fuel-cell basket, too, but that’s largely it.

Leave it to McLaren, responsible for some of the wildest supercars on the market, to champion something a little different. The firm’s Chief Operating Officer, Jens Ludmann, told Autocar in a Thursday report that synthetic fuel is something McLaren is interested in.

How interested? The company plans to produce a development car that runs on synthetic fuel to showcase the technology’s potential. Ludmann says the fuel would require minimal tweaks to today’s internal combustion engine, and it’d still be much better for the environment from a CO2 standpoint. Ludmann says synthetic fuel is particularly viable if companies look at CO2 production included in not only an EV’s lifecycle, but the EV’s battery production. The fact is, building batteries still isn’t that great for the environment as we continue to source more materials for the energy storage devices.

The McLaren executive says this synthetic fuel could be very clean, produced with solar energy even, and easily transported for refueling.

The catch is even Ludmann doesn’t think synthetic fuel would be an outright replacement for the full-speed-ahead approach to EVs. For starters, battery technology is here today and continues to improve. Research and technology surrounding synthetic fuel remains in infancy. McLaren didn’t immediately respond to Roadshow’s request for comment to perhaps learn more specifics on the development car.

Nevertheless, McLaren wants to see the potential, and frankly, so do I. Perhaps there’s more of a¬†future in store for the internal combustion engine than we think.

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