The future of mobility is diverse

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Brigitte Buchmann, member of Empa’s board of directors, speaking at the op
Brigitte Buchmann, member of Empa’s board of directors, speaking at the opening press conference at the stand of Erdöl-Vereinigung. Left: Daniel Hofer president of Erdöl-Vereinigung. Right: Roland Bilang, CEO of Erdöl-Vereinigung and Reinhard Otten, Consultant Strategy Sustainable Product Development at Audi AG. Image: Empa

Empa is presenting sustainable fuels of the future at the Petroleum Association’s stand in Hall 6 of the Geneva Motor Show. Not only electric cars or hydrogen vehicles can be fuelled with low CO2 emissions, but even a 1965 VW Beetle that decorates the stand.

Empa is a guest at the Geneva Motor Show for the second time in 2019. "It is very important for Empa to be able to present new concepts to a broad audience," says Brigitte Buchmann, Member of Empa’s Board of Directors and Head of the department Mobility, Energy and Environment. "In order for Switzerland to achieve its CO2 targets, mobility must focus on renewable energy in the future. This includes hydrogen on the one hand, but also synthetic fuels that we can store for a longer period of time on the other".

Until 17 March, Empa will be showing the various ways in which we can gradually replace fossil fuels at the Erdöl-Vereinigung’s stand (Stand 6239, Hall 6): It is not only electric cars that can be operated with sustainably generated electricity from the sun, wind and hydroelectric power. This electricity can also be used to produce hydrogen, which can be used very efficiently in fuel cell vehicles. But even gasoline and diesel vehicles can run on sustainably generated electricity. To do this, electricity must first be converted into hydrogen and then - in a further step using CO2 from the ambient air - into synthetic fuel, so-called e-fuels.

"The mobility of the future is a major challenge. In addition to technical innovations and changes, we also need to change people’s behaviour," says department head Brigitte Buchmann. "This is why all new forms of mobility are so important. In order to master the changeover, we have to develop various paths further and not rely on a single technology."

The current Motor Show is marked by new, standard electric vehicles. But these are no panacea for the mobility issues of the future. With the Hyundai Nexo and the Toyota Mirai, two hydrogen vehicles can also be seen at the Geneva Motor Show. Hydrogen is already very well suited for city buses, municipal vehicles or parcel delivery services. Fuel cell vehicles are emission-free locally and could significantly reduce air pollution in inner cities. However, the network of filling stations is currently still too thin for long-distance hydrogen traffic. This could soon change: The H2 Mobility Switzerland Association wants to establish a nationwide network of hydrogen filling stations in Switzerland by 2023.

There are already 62 hydrogen filling stations in Germany. By the end of 2019 there should be more than 100.

But already today - and with the existing filling station network for diesel and petrol - it is possible to switch to renewable energies. The sustainably produced hydrogen must be further processed into gaseous or liquid fuels using an industrial chemical process (Fischer-Tropsch synthesis).

Empa is realising and investigating such concepts in its mobility demonstrator "move" in Dübendorf and is testing the production and use of such fuels in reality.