May 14, 2023
eFuels Give Classic Cars a Future
Photo credit: Porsche, Goodwood, Tuthill, Toyota
Is there a connection between the mysterious death of Stanley Meyer and the ongoing debate surrounding motorized mobility and the ecological transition?
The mystery lingers on, caught between his desperate last words, “they poisoned me”, and the official diagnosis of a natural death, intertwined with the hushed silence that still surrounds this self-proclaimed inventor of a revolutionary water-fuel cell system - as he called it - that could have replaced conventional fossil fuels, an idea that has not yet been forgotten.
This 1806 vehicle made by Francois Isaac de Rivaz, nearly 100 years before the first automobiles, used a hydrogen engine
Meyer died almost thirty years ago on 20th March 1998. The remaining documents and unregistered patents fail to conclusively prove the feasibility of his proclaimed fuel derived from water. However, one thing that is true, albeit fiercely contested due to misinformation, is one of the options for the future of mobility: using chemically modified hydrogen that’s liquefied and burned in the combustion chambers of the engines we use every day. That's right: a zero-impact ecological alternative to gasoline, diesel, or kerosene.
First hydrogen-powered race car experiments: BMW and Toyota, pictured, at Le Mans proved it's possible
In the documentation left behind by Meyer, it is easy to discern his intention to create such a process, commencing with water to obtain hydrogen through electrolysis. Over the years, his concept has developed with significant contributions from renowned companies like Bosch, Aramco, and even Porsche. Now, the process involves subjecting water to electrolytic treatments in large-scale facilities powered by renewable sources such as wind or solar energy. This yields hydrogen, which, when combined with atmospheric carbon dioxide (the infamous CO2), becomes liquefied, resulting in a natural fuel that harmonizes seamlessly with fossil fuels with zero impact on the environment.
Porsche eFuel plant in Chile uses wind power to produce hydrogen through electrolysis
So, why has this “Fuel”, as it was aptly named, encountered opposition? Primarily, its production demands vastly different conditions compared to conventional oil extraction. Today, the world's 1.2 billion motor vehicles predominantly rely on fuels that are easily sourced from onshore and offshore wells. In contrast, electricity generated from wind or solar power necessitates installations in areas where there is plenty of sun or wind. With the exception of Aramco and Repsol, these alternative energy sources have not been readily available for most oil companies until now, so it’s not surprising that they are cautiously interested in this alternative. At the same time, the automotive industry has invested heavily in electric and is watching the new fuel with guarded interest.
Sebastian Vettel, a great promoter of new environmentally neutral fuels behind the wheel of the Williams FW14B powered by eFuel
Nonetheless, Stanley Meyer's vision has regained momentum and holds promise for the future. Starting from 2026, Formula 1 plans to adopt this new type of fuel, either pure or mixed with biofuel derived from biomass, for its internal combustion engines. And, like Formula 1, other racing categories are following suit. Known as eFuel, this ground-breaking development is great news for classic car collectors since it can be used without any modifications to internal combustion engines, ensuring the perpetual use of classic cars.
Ultimately, remembering Stanley Meyer at this pivotal moment in history serves as a tribute to a man who envisioned a world where automobiles could be clean and, just as importantly, freed from the burden of guilt.
The use of water-originated eFuel in historic collector car competitions is becoming increasingly popular
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER