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Audi Opens Renewable Energy E-Gas Plant in Germany

With the opening of the e-gas plant in Werite, Germany last week, Audi is the first automobile manufacturer to develop a chain of sustainable energy carriers. Using green electricity, water and carbon dioxide, the final products are hydrogen and synthetic methane.

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Audi is taking a giant step toward the mobility of the future today,” said Heinz Hollerweger, Head of Total Vehicle Development, in his speech at the inauguration. “Audi is the only manufacturer worldwide with such innovative technology. Research into synthetic, environment-friendly fuels is the core of our vigorous e-fuels strategy.” Reiner Mangold, Head of Sustainable Product Development, added, “The power-to-gas facility we built in Werlte can become a beacon project for the entire energy revolution, far beyond the boundaries of our company.” Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, also commended Audi’s commitment in his welcoming address.

In a two step process, the plant will produce synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas, which is virtually identical to fossil natural gas and will be distributed via an existing infrastructure, the German natural gas network, to the CNG filling stations. In the first step, the plant uses surplus green electricity to breakdown water into oxygen and hydrogen. This hydrogen could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Due to the absence of an area-wide infrastructure, the second step is carried out directly: methanation. The hydrogen is reacted with carbon dioxide to produce the synthetic methane. The plant is scheduled to begin feeding Audi e-gas to the grid in the fall of 2013.

The Audi e-gas plant will produce about 1,000 metric tons of e-gas per year, chemically binding some 2,800 metric tons of CO2. This roughly corresponds to the amount that a forest of over 220,000 beech trees absorbs in one year. Water and oxygen are the only by-products.

According to Audi, it is anticipated that the e-gas from Werlte will power 1,500 new Audi A3 Sportback g-tron vehicles for 9,320.57 miles of CO2-neutral driving every year. The 1.4 TFSI in the five-door model can burn natural gas, biomethane and Audi e-gas; with its bivalent design it can also use gasoline. This gives it a total range of some 807.78 miles.

Customers can order a quota of e-gas when they purchase the car. This enables them to take part in an accounting process that ensures that the amount of gas that they put in their vehicle at the natural gas filling station is supplied to the grid by the Audi e-gas plant. Payment and billing is handled via the Audi e-gas refueling card.

The e-gas project is part of Audi‘s comprehensive e-fuels strategy. In parallel with the e-gas plant in Werlte, Audi also operates a research facility in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA, for the production of e-ethanol and e-diesel in collaboration with Joule.

Jul 17th, 2013