How come no one thought of this before?
Automakers left and right are rushing like never before to launch electric vehicles. Some have the money to develop EV platforms from scratch. Others don't. The bottom line is that the future of the century-old combustion engine could come to an end in the not too distant future. But does this have to be the case? Or is there an alternative solution to fighting rising CO2 emissions? Turns out there is and McLaren is the one working on it.
Autocar has learned from McLaren Chief Operations Officer Jens Ludmann that the UK automaker is in the early stages of developing a synthetic fuel as a realistic alternative to battery electrics. In other words, combustion engines could remain and simply run on this "clean oil" instead.
"The technology around synthetic fuels is still being developed, but if you consider that it can be produced using solar energy, easily transported and then pumped [into cars] as we know today, there are potential benefits in terms of emissions and practicality that I'm keen to explore," Ludmann explained. "Today's engines would need only small modifications, and I would like to see this technology get some more airtime."
McLaren hasn't exactly been in a rush to launch an all-electric supercar or hypercar. Even the upcoming McLaren P1 successor won't be purely electric but will instead be an even more advanced plug-in hybrid. The successor to the McLaren 570S, aka the Sports Series, has also been rumored to utilize a hybrid setup. EV batteries are quite heavy and weight is, of course, the enemy of high-performance cars, hence McLaren's desire for alternative solutions.
Even if McLaren is successful in developing a synthetic fuel, there's no chance it'll outright replace EVs, a fact Ludmann admits. However, there's still "the potential to combine synthetic fuel with a hybrid system, which would make it cleaner still."
McLaren's synthetic fuel project appears to be in a relatively early development stage and no timetable was given as to when it could be ready to go. Still, using synthetic fuel to keep V6s, V8s and, perhaps, even V12s alive would be a brilliant solution.