Mazda is another automaker exploring using synthetic carbon neutral fuels. It’s a race in this year’s ENEOS Super Taikyu Series, and the company is taking a new step in evaluating fuel by introducing the Mazda CNF Concept it will soon start competing with.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata features a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine. It will compete in the newly launched ST-Q class for special racing vehicles developed by the manufacturer. Toyota is getting in on that with the GR86 CNF concept which packs a smaller turbocharged 1.4-liter three-cylinder engine, competing with the Subaru BRZ with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder powerplant.
Racing has become one of the industry segments open to exploring alternative fuel technologies. Dacia will race in the 2025 Dakar Rally using synthetic fuels, and even Formula 1 will start using them in a few years, former F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has demonstrated now that he has retired.
Synthetic fuels have become a hot topic for automakers these days, even as they continue to invest in battery-electric vehicles. The journey to carbon neutrality may take several paths to succeed, and drop-in replacement fuels could be one solution. It’s certainly something automakers are exploring a lot.
Late last year, Porsche started developing e-fuels at its plant in Chile, but it would be years before it could produce even a fraction of the amount of gas the world uses in a day. While Toyota is exploring using carbon neutral fuels, its CEO has doubts about the feasibility of the technology because it requires a lot of energy to make, which can be a significant barrier to mainstream adoption. Volkswagen’s head brand honcho called the stuff “unnecessary noise.”
However, the tinkering automakers may one day make them a viable alternative to the millions of combustion-powered cars already on the road. Stellantis announced in April that it was evaluating synthetic fuels in its 28 petrol and diesel engine families. It evaluates machines built from 2014 to the end of the decade.
While it may seem like the internal combustion engine is destined for the trash, it’s probably too soon to write obituaries. The European Union voted earlier this year to allow the sale of new cars running on synthetic fuels after 2035, giving automakers an alternative to the bloc’s ICE ban. But it won’t last if it takes too much energy to make, negating the benefit. That’s one of the reasons why the Porsche factory is in Chile, located in a place where the wind blows 270 days a year for wind turbines.