Petrol and diesel are the predominant vehicle fuels in Europe, and have been for a long time. But recent concerns about the environmental impacts of these oil-based transport fuels, and also energy security, have created interest in the development of alternative fuels, such as renewable ethanol. Renewable ethanol is a clean, domestically-produced alternative to petrol. In Europe, renewable ethanol is mostly blended with traditional petrol at levels of maximum 5-10% ethanol content but higher ethanol concentrations can be used in adapted vehicle engines, such as Flex Fuel Vehicles.
Transport in Europe is 95 % dependent on oil and, with Europe reliant on imports for 90% of its overall oil needs, this threatens our energy security as well as damages our environment. In the short-medium term the GHG reduction potential of enhanced use of renewable ethanol is much higher than from electric vehicles.
European renewable ethanol used in Europe, to reduce GHG emissions and improve energy dependence, complies with the world’s most stringent sustainability standards. In order to achieve real GHG emission savings other alternative fuels must also demonstrate their sustainability.
In order to create a level playing field the environmental performance of alternative fuels must not be based on tailpipe emissions. A harmonized life cycle analysis for all vehicle emissions needs to be developed and applied consequentially to all fuels.
Currently used ethanol blends such as E5, E10, E85 (for Flex-Fuel-Vehicles) and ED95 (for heavy duty vehicles) should be complemented by a new fuel grade E20, which cancontribute substantially to additional GHG emission reductions.
E20 has high octane rating and contributes twofold to GHG emission reductions: not only does it lower GHG emissions directly through the replacement of fossil petrol, but it also improves the engine efficiency thanks to its higher octane rating.
This is confirmed by a meta-analysis completed by the Vienna University of Technology which found that E20 blends, compared to regular petrol (E0), lead to higher engine efficiency and a decrease in end of pipe emissions.
European transport fuel policy should ensure that a clear trajectory for the market introduction of E20 is allowed. The first step in this process is for the development of a E20 standard, and preparatory work for such a standard is already under way.
For all market players involved such as car manufacturers, fuel distributors, blenders, refiners and ethanol producers a roadmap for the introduction of E20 would bring the clarity needed in order to prepare for a smooth market introduction of the new fuel. New infrastructure will need to be developed, including the roll out of E20 compatible vehicles.
It is clear that higher alternative fuel blends are needed to help meet Europe’s ambitious renewables and decarbonisation objectives for transport.