Audi’s revolutionary e-gas plant, first announced in May, 2011, has finally come online. The plant can create a variety of energy sources including pure electricity, hydrogen or a synthetic gas similar to natural gas which Audi calls e-gas.

The plant, located in Werlte, Germany, will produce about 1,000 metric tons of e-gas per year, chemically binding some 2,800 metric tons of CO2. That's roughly as much a forest of over 220,000 beech trees absorbs in a year. Water and oxygen are the only by-products.

It is anticipated that the e-gas generated will power 1,500 new Audi A3 Sportback g-tron vehicles over a distance of about 9,300 miles each, with each of the miles driven being C02 neutral.  

The whole process starts with electrically generated from wind farms located in the North Sea, just off the coast of Germany. This clean energy can either be fed into a grid to power electric cars or used to create hydrogen at the plant via the electrolysis of water.

Audi e-gas project

Audi e-gas project

Since a suitable hydrogen fuel infrastructure is not yet available, the plant can be used to convert the hydrogen into e-gas in a C02-consuming process called methanation. As such, it can be distributed to fueling stations via the existing natural gas network.

The plant is scheduled to begin feeding e-gas to the natural gas network in the fall of 2013.

Buyers of the A3 Sportback g-tron in Germany will be able to order a quota of e-gas when they purchase the car. This enables them to take part in an accounting process that ensures that the amount of gas that they put in their vehicle at the natural gas filling station is matched by the e-gas plant. Payment and billing is handled via an e-gas refueling card.

Note, Audi has similar projects running here in the U.S. The automaker has a research facility in Hobbs, New Mexico where it produces ethanol and diesel fuel using microorganisms in wastewater and combining this with sunlight and C02.