While some argue for a total ban on thermal energy in 2035, the bioethanol sector wants to keep a place for E85. It is based on a study to try to show that this fuel can be as clean as 100% electric if it is combined with the rechargeable hybrid.
The future of the internal combustion engine in Europe has been the subject of heated debate for several months. But we should soon be set on the fate that will be reserved for it by 2035. It is indeed on September 5 that discussions between the three main bodies of the Union open in order to finalize the regulation on emissions. of CO2 light vehicles. While the Parliament and the Commission had expressed their wish to keep only 100% electric and the fuel cell, the European Council, made up of the Ministers for the Environment of all the Member States, showed itself to be a little more flexible. . It opened a small door to “carbon neutral” fuels and plug-in hybrid vehicles. While introducing the idea of a “review clause” in 2026 to check whether a total cessation of sales of new thermal vehicles in 2035 is indeed realistic. An opportunity for the Collective of bioethanolwhich is based on a study by IFPEN (French Institute of Petroleum and New Energies) to try to defend the merits of E85.
An analysis over the entire life cycle
According to the results of this analysis, over its entire life cycle in 2022, a compact sedan plug-in hybrid (PHEV) fueled with ethanol would not emit more CO2 than its 100% electric equivalent. In France, the two would be at 13 tonnes of CO equivalent2 during their lifetime, which is half as much as combustion with 100% fossil fuel. A figure obtained by taking into account both production and use over 150,000 km. The flexfuel E85 hybrid, which would operate approximately 60% of the time with the petrol engine started in this study, would thus compensate for its exhaust emissions by manufacturing much less polluting, thanks to a much smaller battery. The way in which electricity is obtained was also taken into account. In the rest of Europe, where coal and other fossil fuels are still frequently used, the trend would therefore be even more favorable to the association between bioethanol and PHEV: it would certainly rise to 16.5 t of CO2 in this case and the all-electric would increase to 22 tons!
Improvements still expected by 2040
Taking into account the technological progress envisaged on both sides, a projection for 2040 has also been imagined, without upsetting the conclusion. The two solutions would manage to reduce to 9 tons of CO2 in France at this time, thanks in particular to the employment synthetic gasoline oil-free to replace some of the lead-free present today in E85. If we look at the European scale, we would observe a net tightening. But the marriage ethanol / PHEV would keep a slight advantage of 1 ton of CO2 Nevertheless. Enough to support the request of the Collective of bioethanol, which wishes to “authorizing the sale of plug-in hybrid vehicles using a low-carbon fuel when they perform as well as 100% electric vehicles in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in life cycle analysis”. The group also calls for the Commission to provide a life cycle analysis methodology in 2023 to be applied to vehicles and energies. Finally, he would like the notion of carbon-neutral fuel, which is rather vague today, to be clarified.
A fight far from won
To support its proposals, the Bioethanol Collective also argues that there would be no need to increase agricultural land to run 5 million plug-in hybrids on E85 by 2040. The ethanol/ PHEV would also make it possible to offer vehicles that are less dependent on charging stations than 100% electric models. These cars would also be equipped with greater autonomy, potentially more affordable and would have a lower consumption of certain natural resources such as nickel or cobalt. There remains the most difficult thing to do: to convince all of Europe that these arguments are admissible. For the time being, in fact, superethanol is having a hard time breaking through outside of France. Even in France, it remains rather marginal since only Ford, Land Rover and Jaguar now offer new compatible models without an additional box. This fuel is also strongly criticized by some very influential environmental organizations, starting with Transport & Environment. As for the study on which the sector wants to rely, it suffers from relating to a single type of vehicle, which does not even exist today on the market, and to have been sponsored by unions and agricultural associations involved in the production of bioethanol. Its detractors can therefore easily accuse it of being incomplete and of lacking neutrality.