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Would you pay $100 per litre for fuel to avoid an electric car? Synthetic fuels can save petrol-powered cars but more car companies need to support Toyota and Porsche's 'eFuels' to make them cheaper

eFuels could save the internal combustion engine, but right now it's prohibitively expensive.

Toyota wants to save the internal combustion engine and believes synthetic fuel is the answer - but not at the current price.

Speaking at the launch of the Toyota GR Corolla, the car’s chief engineer, Naoyuki Sakamoto, discussed the company’s work with so-called ‘eFuels’ as an alternative for internal combustion engines. And the Japanese brand isn’t the first to believe in the idea of carbon neutral fuel, with Porsche investing not only in the technology but also its production, committing to building an eFuels plant in Tasmania by the end of the decade.

However, Sakamoto said more carmakers need to embrace eFuels alongside electric vehicles if it’s to become a viable alternative because it currently costs up to 100 times more that conventional unleaded petrol.

Sakamoto said the biggest element in favour of synthetic fuels is that they can be used in existing petrol-powered cars without modification, which means millions of vehicles could switch to a carbon-neutral alternative without major changes.

“The benefits of carbon-neutral fuel is that you can use it in the cars we have, that’s a good point for it.” he said. “But, the cost of carbon-neutral fuel is still very expensive. So, for the near-future, carbon-neutral fuel would be a good option if we can make it cheaper.”

He called for more car companies to support the technology in order to bring down the costs, but admitted the current political landscape in several key markets, notably the European Union which will ban all internal combustion vehicles by 2035, is making it tough.

“We need to work together, not only Toyota and Porsche, but [the industry] needs to work together to create a future for carbon-neutral fuel,” Sakamoto said.

“Sometimes the carbon-neutral future is affected by political reasons, but we need to collaborate with many companies to find out the right direction,” he added. “We do not have to eliminate any options so far. We should not focus on some certain fuel or energy because every option has its pros and cons. So it depends on the situation, the country, we may find some good solutions for the negative options for certain fuels. So we don’t have any [definitive] answer, we’re testing many options right now.”

Porsche has committed to building an eFuels plant in Tasmania by the end of the decade. Porsche has committed to building an eFuels plant in Tasmania by the end of the decade.

Making eFuels mainstream is one way Sakamoto is hoping to extend the life of Toyota’s still relatively-new Gazoo Racing range of performance cars. The brand has only just launched the GR Corolla hot hatch to go along with the GR Yaris and GR86, but Sakamoto wants to do what he can to ensure the 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in the hot hatches lives on beyond one product cycle.

But he admits no future direction for the GR models has been locked it yet, with several options including electric power and hydrogen fuel under evaluation.

“At this moment we’re trying to improve the combustion engine using petrol, but it can be converted to hydrogen or carbon-neutral fuel,” Sakamoto said. “As long as it’s a compact, durable engine it is a good test piece for new fuel. That’s why we’re improving the internal combustion engine using petrol at this moment.”