Last week, Italian supercar maker Lamborghini announced plans to begin researching its own synthetic fuels. This follows similar moves from VW Group stablemate Porsche, as well as a host of oil companies, all seeking to clean up their act (or their image). But what are synthetic fuels, how do they work, and most importantly, can they really save internal combustion engines?
Scientifically speaking, synthetic fuels are artificially-produced alternatives to conventional gasoline or diesel. In its simplest form, a synthetic fuel is made by combining hydrogen and carbon atoms to create a compound called an alkene — usually Ethene, which contains two carbon atoms and four hydrogen atoms.
But there’s a lot of variance in the way individual companies go about getting to an end product that could be pumped into your vehicle’s fuel tank. And if you go looking for synthetic fuels right now, you’re likely to find some that use mind-bending chemical processes and others that start out as a literal load of old garbage.
To try and demystify this sci-fi tech, we’ve picked out five particularly interesting synthetic-fuel projects to keep an eye on in the coming years.