For the last 18 months, a fleet of 6 methanol-fueled versions of the Geely Emgrand 7 cars have been in Iceland. Geely is a shareholder ($45.5-million investment in 2015) in Carbon Recycling International (CRI), an Icelandic company which produces renewable methanol using recycled CO2 emissions sourced from a local thermal power plant and hydrogen made by splitting water with electrolysis (Power-to-Methanol). (Earlier post.)
The methanol fleet test is a collaboration between Geely, CRI and Brimborg, a local dealership and automotive service provider.
In the recently concluded first phase of the fleet test, the cars were driven roughly 150,000 kilometers (93,000 miles). Among drivers testing the vehicles were CRI staff and members of the Icelandic Automobile Association as well as several local service providers in the auto industry. The participants reported virtually no difference in driving experience compared to regular gasoline- or diesel-fueled cars.
The Geely Emgrand 7 is a mid-sized 4-door sedan similar in size to a Škoda Octavia or Toyota Corolla. It features a 1.8-liter, 127 hp engine which can run on both 100% methanol (M100) and gasoline. The version used in the fleet test has a 50-liter methanol tank as well as a 10-liter gasoline tank. The car starts with fuel from the gasoline tank and automatically switches to methanol once a preset temperature has been reached in the engine. The switch from gasoline to methanol is not noticeable to the driver.
As methanol is stable at a low temperature and therefore evaporates slowly—unlike gasoline—the two-tank solution was implemented to avoid any problems during cold starts. Geely is now working on a new design, eliminating the need for the small gasoline tank.
According to CRI’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Ómar Sigurbjörnsson, who managed the fleet test, the reported reduction in well-to-wheel (WTW) CO2 emissions when driving with renewable methanol compared to gasoline was 70% on average (including all upstream manufacturing, distribution and tailpipe emissions for both the gasoline starter fuel and renewable methanol).
The average in-use emissions were calculated as 46 g CO2 per kilometer, accounting for the consumption of both fuels. Compared to gasoline or diesel methanol however offers much cleaner combustion, free of soot and emits no traces of sulphur or carcinogenic compounds which are formed in the combustion of liquid fossil fuels.
According to Sigurbjörnsson, the data collected supports the conclusion that methanol fueled cars will also be economically competitive with both fossil fueled cars, hybrids and electric cars.
These positive results encourage CRI and its partners to engage in further development of renewable methanol use in vehicles. Planning for the next phase is already underway.
Methanol has been used as a racing fuel for many decades. Unlike methane gas and hydrogen, there is no need to install expensive infrastructure in order to store and distribute methanol as a fuel. Furthermore, cars such as the Geely Emgrand can be manufactured in the same facilities, using the same platforms as gasoline or diesel powered vehicles which reduces production costs compared to electric or hybrid vehicles. According to Mr. Sigurbjörnsson, methanol can also be used to generate electricity onboard using fuel cells.
CRI’s current plant has a renewable methanol production capacity of 4,000 metric ton/year.
Methanol which is produced with CRI’s method is one of the most environmentally friendly liquid fuels available today. It burns without soot and has a high octane number which enables car manufacturers to design lighter, powerful engines with more efficiency than can be achieved in the design of traditional gasoline or diesel engines. We are also participating in projects where our renewable methanol is already used to extend the range of battery electric cars and ferries.
CRI has joined 42 other stakeholders from across the EEA region to launch CO2 Value Europe, a new European association dedicated to promoting CO2 utilization. CO2 Value Europe’s mission is to promote development and market deployment of sustainable industrial solutions that convert CO2 into valuable products, in order to contribute to the net reduction of global CO2 emissions and to the diversification of the feedstock base.
The association was officially launched by the founding partners in Brussels on November 30, 2017. The founding partners of the Association include 10 large industrial corporations, 12 innovative SMEs and startups, 10 Research & Technology Organizations (RTOs), 6 universities and 5 clusters, ports and associations.
Geely developed the methanol version of the Emgrand for the Chinese market, where use of methanol is an automobile fuel has increased rapidly over the last few years. Several Chinese provinces and the municipality of Shanghai have adopted standards for methanol and gasoline blends. The most common blend contains 15% methanol and 85% gasoline.
Currently, China produces most of its methanol from coal. CRI now works closely with Chinese partners to build up a more environmentally friendly production facilities, using CRI’s proprietary CO2-to-methanol technology.
Last week, in collaboration with Geely Holdings and Zixin Industrial Co., CRI incorporated a joint venture in China under the name CRI Ji Xin. The Shanghai-based company, which was registered in September 2017, will handle all sales and marketing in China, bringing the solution of CRI’s ETL (Emissions-to-Liquids) technology closer to potential adaptors in the Chinese energy sector.
The foundation of a joint venture is a milestone for CRI’s operations, increasing its presence outside of Europe.