Stellantis is the latest major automaker to investigate the potential of carbon-neutral fuels, often referred to as e-fuels, for keeping the internal-combustion engine alive in a world of zero carbon emissions.

Although Stellantis is committed to electric vehicles, particularly in Europe where it plans to exclusively sell EVs from 2030, the automaker predicts that gas and diesel vehicles will still be in use up to 2050. It sees e-fuels as a solution for eliminating carbon emissions from these vehicles.

The automaker this week said it successfully tested e-fuels supplied by Saudi Arabian oil giant Aramco across 24 engine families used in its European vehicles. Some of the engine designs date back to 2014, and according to Stellantis they could all use e-fuel without the need for modification.

“We are exploring all solutions to reinforce our ambitious strategy of becoming a carbon net zero company by 2038,” Ned Curic, Stellantis' chief engineering and technology officer, said in a statement.

Synthetic fuel development

Synthetic fuel development

An e-fuel is any fuel in which the carbon circle is completely neutral so the carbon utilized to produce the fuel is the same quantity as the carbon emitted from the internal-combustion engine when burning the fuel. The production process typically involves some form of carbon capture technology and renewable energy as an input.

Aramco has pilot plants producing e-fuel in Saudi Arabia and Spain. Porsche, another major proponent of the technology, has its own pilot plant in Chile.

Aramco is also working with Zhejiang Geely and Renault on e-fuels. It is also working with Formula 1 on the technology, with a view to having it ready for the sport as soon as 2026.

The European Union, which this year passed legislation that will effectively ban the sale of new light vehicles fitted with internal-combustion engines by 2035, has confirmed it is planning to offer a loophole that will enable new vehicles designed to run on e-fuels to be sold beyond the 2035 cutoff, at the urging of certain member countries, including Germany.