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Former F1 boss racing to create ‘guilt free’ fuel

(Reuters) - Formula One is seen as one of the most gas guzzling of sports but one top engineer and former F1 team boss Paddy Lowe is seeking to change this with the launch of a so-called guilt-free synthetic fuel.

The technology could help the sport achieve its goal of using a hundred percent sustainable fuel from 2026 as it races to reach Net Zero by 2030.

“So what is a synthetic fuel? Put simply, it's a fuel made from just air and water.”

Lowe is the co-founder of British based Zero Petroleum. For decades he devoted his time to working out how to make Formula One cars go faster. Now his tagline is “600 million years in three minutes” as he focuses on consigning fossil fuels to history.

In June he opened plant Zero One, billed as the world's first fully integrated facility to make synthetic fuel from air, water and renewable energy.

The science is based on the 1920s work of German's Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch who came up with a process to produce liquid hydrocarbons from coal.

“When you burn regular fuel fossil fuels such as gasoline, petrol or diesel or jet fuel, what comes out (of) the exhaust pipe is carbon dioxide. That's burnt carbon and water, which has burnt hydrogen.” explains Lowe. “What we do is take those exact same molecules out of the atmosphere again so the water and the carbon dioxide - we add in new energy and reconstitute that as a hydrocarbon. “

The new plant will make a mere 30 liters of fuel a day, not enough to fill a car tank but sufficient for technical evaluations, research and certification.

Lowe sees synthetic fuels as a future not just for cars, but also for aviation, shipping and agriculture where electric is not a viable option due to weight or range. He predicts the cost of synthetic fuel currently eye-wateringly expensive will plunge.

“The next step which we call “Plant 0.2” will be to take this exact same technology to a scale of maybe 500 times, 1000 times bigger, where we are making enough fuel to sell to clients, to sell it to the public.” says Lowe. “So this is a commercial grade plant and eventually within just a few decades we anticipate…that all the fuel we use today as fossil fuel and more…will be synthetic fuels rather than dug out of the ground.”

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