Could THIS Technology Kill the Electric Vehicle
Since earlier this year, a small scale test has been running in an obscure corner of the world that could revolutionise our thinking about how we power our personal vehicles. The technology is called Carbon Scrubbing, the process of taking CO2 out of the air we breathe and turning it back into a hydrocarbon fuel that suits all of the Internal Combustion Engines that we are currently driving.
Just imagine driving up to your local petrol station and pumping a tank of carbon-neutral fuel. That is precisely what a Canadian company from a small town called Squamish is saying is now possible, as it showcases liquid fuel that it is making by pulling the carbon out of the air and then combining it with hydrogen from water to create a liquid fuel.
Looks like petrol to us. Image source: Carbon Engineering
This process is not new but Carbon Engineering, a company funded by Bill Gates of Microsoft, has made an engineering breakthrough that allows for the process to be cost-effective. In fact, it claims that the new technology scaled up will easily compete with regular petrol and diesel or indeed jet-fuel, and will not add any additional greenhouse gas to the environment.
Of course, there will still be carbon dioxide in the exhaust gases but only as much as is put in. So, this will not save the world from global warming but governments can also use the technology to capture more carbon than required, and then dispose of the excess in old mine shafts and the like.
The trick was to get the cost of capture to below US$100 for each ton of CO2 captured. Carbon Energy now says it can do this for about US$96/ton and is even looking at ways that this can be reduced. The process does require a lot of electricity, firstly, to power the fans that suck in the air, and then for the electrolysis process that splits the hydrogen from the oxygen in water. However, this can be achieved using renewable power sources such as solar and hydro power.
When you consider the cost for the world to move over to electric-powered vehicles, the price of buying a new vehicle (and boy, aren’t those new electric cars expensive), the creation of charging networks and the finite amount of lithium and cobalt in the world to make the batteries with, then sticking with the existing technology and infrastructure seems like it could work. There are some modes of transport that just cannot adopt electrification, such as airplanes, and thus this technology could solve all sorts of future problems whilst making our air more breathable. Happy days, right?
Read about how it’s Good News for the Philippines as the Lack of Cobalt Starts Hurting Electric Automakers.
One of the great things about this technology is that it could come to a gas station near you in the short term. Carbon Engineering is not looking to create its own network of refineries but to license the technology to companies already in the fuel business, who would then build the plant to produce the fuel. All you need is a supply of air and renewable electricity—pretty simple, really. Come on world, what are you waiting for?
Pretty unremarkable looking factory for something that is so revolutionary.
If you want to know more about the science, then watch these videos: