Goodbye to Tesla and hydrogen: this is the next fuel, but not in the U.S.

Goodbye to Tesla and hydrogen

Do you remember when America led the global automotive industry? It’s so long ago, few know what era we’re talking about, but it’s certainly not today. Just when Tesla wanted to take the lead, along came hydrogen to give it competition. However, a new fuel has just imposed itself and shown that it is the definitive one… although it is far from reaching the U.S.

Bad news for Tesla and U.S.: new fuel coming from far away

It means that the future of the automobile industry is no longer in the use of fuels derived from petroleum products because most countries in the world are demanding for reduction in carbon emissions. Alternative vehicles such as electrical cars have been embraced though they have barriers such as exorbitant prices.

Fuel cell vehicles were once thought of as a mainstream zero-emission vehicle which major automakers such as Toyota had planned to mass produce but have now reduced the number significantly due to challenges with infrastructure and storing hydrogen.

Considerable progress in electric and hydrogen cars has not allowed to completely eliminate gasoline from the automobile fleet, and now methanol is considered as an alternative automobile fuel. Methanol can be produced from numerous feedstocks such as natural gas, coal, biomass residues, and even carbon dioxide emissions.

China and Malaysia are developing a new fuel: it´s not hydrogen, and it´s better than EVs

Geely is a major Chinese auto manufacturer that has been promoting the utilization of methanol-fueled vehicles for some time now. The first methanol-fueled model from the company was Emgrand EV300 produced by Geely in 2016. This was followed by Geely Borui GE 2018 methanol MPV – China’s MPV that runs on methanol.

By 2021 the China market Geely had 100 thousand methanol vehicles on the road. The company has created an entire system on the basis of methanol – enabled cars: the stations for refueling the cars by the methanol, the technological support, the support of the governmental structures.

The methanol fuel for vehicles has been increasingly used in China due to its lower prices and higher octane number as compared to the gasoline. Geely touts several advantages of methanol over traditional fuels:

  • There are numerous feasible feedstocks for production of methanol ranging from coal to natural gas and agricultural waste.
  • It is noted that methanol fuel is more efficient that gasoline and causes less air pollution. This is convenient because China has targets for lowering emissions especially in its metropolitan centers.
  • It has shown to be less flammable than gasoline and can be safer in accidents, (here, meanwhile, insurers remain unhappy with EVs).

What could happen with methanol? New country to develop the most futuristic fuel

Methanol is another product that Malaysia has increasingly been exporting in the recent years. Most of the methanol production in the country is feedstock with natural gas – a resource the country has in large volumes. Malaysia’s Petronas has poured millions of dollars into new methanol plants.

Petronas distributes gas to PETRONAS Chemicals Methanol Sdn Bhd (PCM), for its methanol plant at Labuan, which is one of the largest in the world. This plant can produce 1. 7Mt/y. 2016 – Petronas has begun the operations of a new methanol plant in the PETRONAS Chemicals Integrated Complex (PCIC) in Sarawak.

This huge plant has the capability to produces two million tonnes per annum. It gets gas deliveries from the nearby PETRONAS LNG Complex. Thus, with these two plants in place, Malaysia is now able to produce about 3 . 7 million tonnes per year of methanol as a transport fuel.

As you can see, the rise of methanol in the global automotive industry goes far beyond what we knew until now, with applications exclusively in ships. We have already seen the first engines running on this fuel, and also several brands that are taking an interest in it. Will we see Tesla doing the same? We all remember Musk’s words about the “stupidity” of hydrogen.

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