When you think of the nations leading the progressive, emission-reduction charge, Australia isn’t exactly the first country to come to mind. The land of bushfires and flooding rains has historically lagged behind the rest of the developed world in curbing the climate crisis, with much of the nation’s wealth tied up to iron ore and mineral mining. In fact, a report released at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November revealed that Australia had the highest greenhouse gas emissions from coal power in the world on a per capita basis, almost doubling those in China. Despite the country’s shortcomings on the carbon emissions-cutting front, however, iconic automaker Porsche is heading Down Under for its sustainable eFuel production dreams.
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Announced last week, Porsche has invested a whopping USD$75 million in HIF Global LLC, a holding company of internationally active project developers of eFuel production facilities. In return, the sports car manufacturer is acquiring a long-term stake in the company, which is based in Santiago de Chile, as it works towards building more environmentally-friendly fuels.
In terms of specifics, HIF Global LLC has set its sights on producing eFuels from hydrogen and CO₂ using wind energy. This new innovation is expected to start at the Haru Oni eFuel pilot plant in Punta Arenas in mid-2022, with Porsche suggesting the electricity-based synthetic fuels allow combustion engines to be operated in a potentially almost CO₂-neutral manner. While that all sounds well and good, the additional capital will be used to develop industrial eFuel facilities in Chile, the US and perhaps most surprising, Australia.
“EFuels make an important contribution to climate protection and complement our electromobility in a meaningful way,” Barbara Frenkel, member of the executive board for procurement at Porsche AG said.”By investing in industrial eFuel production, Porsche is further expanding its commitment to sustainable mobility. In total, our investment in the development and provision of this innovative technology amounts to more than USD 100 million.”
While on the outside, the Australian facility integration may seem a little out of left-field, it does make sense. In fact, almost annoyingly for green-focused environmentalists, the Porsche announcement simply confirms a long-held suspicion – That being, the country’s plethora of available renewable resources make it the perfect foundation to build a sustainable future. In recent years, state and federal legislation has leaned towards further electric-vehicle adoption, with Porsche’s own EV platform behind much of the new market growth. In January, data revealed that the electric Taycan had outsold the flagship 911 sports car for the first time ever
According to Porsche, the investment in HIF Global LLC with see the German icon engage in an international financing round alongside the Chilean company Andes Mining & Energy (AME) and the American companies EIG, Baker Hughes Company and Gemstone Investments. This move will see an amount in the low nine-figure USD range flow into HIF Global LLC, with AME to remain the majority shareholder of HIF Global LLC.
“We see ourselves as pioneers in eFuels and want to drive the technology. This is one building block in our clear, overall sustainability strategy,” Michael Steiner, member of the executive board for research and development at Porsche AG said. “Synthetic fuels offer attractive prospects across transportation sectors, from the automotive industry to the aviation and shipping sectors. In addition, e-methanol is an important raw material for other applications, such as in the chemical industry, where it can replace raw materials of fossil origin. E-methanol is an intermediate product that is produced during the generation of eFuel.”
While Porsche’s transaction to acquire a stake in HIF Global LLC is subject to approval by the relevant antitrust authorities, it does spell an interesting future for the German automaker and indeed, Australia. A carbon-neutral combustion engine does feel a little like a pipe-dream at this stage, but as the nation that brought the world Wi-Fi, Vegemite and the Victa Lawnmower, Australia might just be the one to make it a reality.