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Garrett thought articles

Why combustion engines are here to stay

Globally, there are 1.4 billion vehicles on the roads. Many have passed the age of adulthood and have reached their Twenties, some even Thirties and older. Most of those vehicles would certainly be banned from European cities as they neither comply with safety nor with our state-of-the-art emission standards. Yet, they fulfill the purpose of driving people and goods from A to B and thereby enable entrepreneurship and businesses to thrive.

Even if we wanted all those billion plus vehicles owners to drive a fancy battery vehicle, it is not feasible and certainly the electric grid is nowhere near fit enough to withstand the demand in electrons that comes with it. In some parts of the world, such as in Scandinavia, Benelux, and other urban centers making the switch to an electricity-powered battery electric vehicle (BEV) makes some sense, but further south and east even within Europe this concept sees its limitations.

Additionally, there is the battery question. 1.4 billion vehicles with an average battery weight of 500 kg makes for 700 million tons of lithium, cobalt, rare earth metals and others. The damage to the environment in extraditing this amount from Mother Earth certainly is not sustainable.

And then the challenges we face around the charging infrastructure: In the past ten years, the uptake of electric vehicles across Europe led to the installation of roughly 300.000 publicly accessible charging posts. According to calculations by the European Car Manufacturers ACEA, the amount needed by the end of this decade, merely eight years away from today, will exceed 7 million public chargers. Do we believe we can build 70.000 new installations every month to meet that demand? Or should we not rather look at the existing infrastructure we have and make their supply fossil-free?

The existing infrastructure opportunity 

Europe’s 140.000 gas stations nowadays supply our fellow citizens with the fuel they need to drive their vehicles. This infrastructure network is an asset, not to be thrown away, especially since concepts exist to replace oil as the source of energy for future fuels. CONCLAVE, the research division of the European fuel industry, has published a study, confirming the feasibility to produce enough renewable zero-carbon liquid e-fuels of current specifications to supply our entire European fleet. [1]

The way forward as we at Garrett Motion see it, is a mix of vehicles powered by electricity, hydrogen, and e-fuels. The ultimate decision, which technology to use, will and should be taken by the consumer as long as the means of transport is carbon-neutral and keeps us on track to fulfill our climate goals.

Research, development and a massive scale global deployment of e-fuels will keep the combustion engine on the market, while ensuring that more a billion vehicles on today’s road become carbon neutral. That alone should be enough motivation for policy makers, automotive industry and gas providers to greenlight e-fuel usage. Hundred thousands of jobs could be saved and Europe could keep their competitive advantage.


Constanze Picking, Garrett Vice President Government Relations                                                                                                                                                                                                


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