an iconic Porsche 911 in front of Brandenburger Tor - AI-generated © MidJourney
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When I was a teenager (in the 1970s), my uncle had a Porsche 911 Targa. My grandfather used to cynically exclaim, “The Playboy is coming” when he came to visit every half a year. The car nevertheless became a dream car for me and many in our family. My father always said that a Porsche would make you unhappy. He didn’t mean that driving the car made him unhappy – he was referring to his honeymoon, which he had been able to take many years earlier in the Porsche 356 that my uncle was driving at the time. It was the fact that he had to give it back after the honeymoon that made him unhappy.

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Derek Jan Fikkers, Eugène Franken, JP Kroeger, Katleen Gabriels, Bernd Maier-Leppla, Willemijn Brouwer, and Colinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to figure out what the future will look like. These columnists, sometimes joined by guest bloggers, all work in their own way to find solutions to the problems of our time. Here are all the previous installments.

The Porsche 911 – from iconic sports car to environmental destruction icon

This describes very well how many people around the world feel about the Porsche 911 icon. Since the escalation of the climate crisis, this has changed in certain circles. The Porsche 911 has become the iconic environmental destroyer among car owners. That’s surprising because SUVs are actually much more effective in this game.

Porsche 911 and e-fuels

With the advent of e-fuels, the revulsion has actually increased. The Porsche bogeyman is now mentioned in the same breath as synthetic fuels, which would be effectively CO2-neutral. “Would be” if they were produced with renewable energies.

The catch: the energy input in Germany would be impossible to handle with renewables, and the cost of a liter of e-fuel would be equally “astronomical.” This prompts the eco-movement to devise a calculation all its own: E-fuels, they believe, are simply a waste for passenger cars. They are much more needed for shipping and air travel.

That’s right. Suppose you assume that the energy is produced in Europe, possibly even in low-wind areas like the foothills of the Alps. Logically, the energy expended is then also missing for households and industries. Because: on average, a wind power plant in Germany delivers just 2,000 hours of energy onshore per year (out of 8,760 hours).

Only about 400 vehicles could get 14,000 km annually from a wind turbine with a theoretical output of 5 MW. In comparison, 3,500 purely electric vehicles could already cover the same distance.

The opponents of e-fuels argue that this actually makes nonsense of the e-fuels idea. It could well be.

E-fuels not in Germany

Porsche is working with Siemens Energy on the Haru Oni project in Chile, where e-fuels will be produced from green hydrogen in windy Patagonia. Admittedly, in comparatively homeopathic doses. Nevertheless, a 5 MW wind turbine there has an energy yield of 6,000 h/a, three times higher than in Germany. Theoretically, 1,200 vehicles could run on the e-fuels produced there. That makes the calculation look quite different. And as far as the costs are concerned, the energy company Saudi Aramco has just reported a price per liter of 80 ct before taxes – in Saudi Arabia, they say, the kWh costs only 0.01 €.

Nevertheless, the car industry has already decided secretly. At any rate, this is the opinion of the head of the automotive supplier Valeo, Christophe Périllat, who made it unmistakably clear in an interview in the German daily newspaper Die Welt: “There is no doubt that electric cars will prevail!”

Ideologically heated discussion

But in fact, it’s not about Porsche and Co or even e-fuels. In fact, it’s about the very ideological rejection of individual transport. Porsche is the symbol of the egoistic consumer who doesn’t care about the climate. Whoever drives a Porsche is also a capitalist and/or has definitely paid for his/her car with dubious methods.

But there is hope for the 911 fans of this world (if they want to drive in a climate-friendly way). A company called Electrogenic has just unveiled an electric drop-in kit for old 911s that aims to “future-proof” the icon. With a 64 kWh battery and up to 360 hp. That would be a suggestion of goodness, wouldn’t it?

A little digression for classification:

During a laytime of ten hours, a medium-sized cruise ship consumes around 50 tons of diesel for electricity production. That corresponds to the daily consumption of 25,000 diesel cars traveling an average of around 30 kilometers.
A cruise ship like the AIDA, with an engine utilization of 85%, requires about 140 tons of fuel per day.
I am unsure if these quantities are clear to the proponents of e-fuels and the eco-movement (“shipping only”), especially since world shipping consumes gigantic amounts of fuel per day. According to Wikipedia, world shipping was responsible for 1 billion tons of CO2 emissions in 2021. That’s about 2.6% of total global emissions. By comparison, Germany emitted 678 million tons of CO2 in 2021.
Thus, for shipping alone, e-fuels would have to be produced in an amount equivalent to a multiple of Germany’s total passenger car consumption. On January 1, 371,200 Porsche brand cars were registered in Germany (but 5 million SUVs). Less than 8000 units of the Porsche 911 were registered in 2021 – out of a vehicle population of around 50 million passenger cars.