Toyota recently partnered with Exxon Mobil to develop and test low-carbon fuels in gasoline engines. This effort aims to reduce the greenhouse emissions of existing vehicles and offer consumers an alternative to upgrading to an electric vehicle.
The gasoline blends are developed with a mix of feedstocks, including biomass and ethanol using a refinement process that aims to reduce production emissions in addition to lowering emissions at the tailpipe. According to Andrew Madden, Exxon’s vice president for strategy and planning, these fuels could one day cut carbon emissions by as much as 75 percent compared to regular gasoline.
Currently, the fuels are in the test phase but have proven compatible with Toyota vehicles. If successful, the alternative fuels program could provide an alternative to battery-powered cars in the future, allowing drivers to keep their existing cars or upgrade to a cleaner hybrid or other internal combustion vehicles.
Once these alternative fuels are viable commercially, the next hurdle is government policy support. “Having a solution for liquid fuels that we can use in the existing fleet, having it in the kind of policy construct where we allow the market to innovate, is the lowest cost way to decarbonize transportation,” Madden said.
In the US and many other countries, new EV buyers currently receive tax credits. Exxon and Toyota argue that a better policy would be to focus on lifecycle emissions which account for EV reliance on an electrical grid powered by greenhouse gas sources while rewarding low-carbon fuel production.
Exxon and Toyota have a history of developing technologies to reduce transportation emissions. Before dropping the idea, Exxon previously touted algae as a sustainable alternative to diesel fuel. Meanwhile, Toyota invested heavily in hybrid technology and hydrogen fuel as part of a multifaceted approach to reducing emissions. Both companies believe that even though demand for new EVs continues to increase, efforts must be made to lower carbon emissions on existing fleets to meet climate goals.
“No matter what you think the pace of electrification transition might be, there will be a billion, if not hundreds of millions of vehicles on the road for quite a long time,” said Tom Stricker, vice president for sustainability and affairs at Toyota. Lower-carbon fuels are “quite important in achieving those greenhouse gas reductions quickly.”
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