Grading system for synthetic liquid fuel to be launched by the Historic & Classic Vehicle Alliance (HCVA)
Words: Jeff Ruggles
A new star grading system is to be launched to help demystify new sustainable liquid fuels to both consumers and the historic vehicle industry. The Historic & Classic Vehicle Alliance (HCVA) aims to cover every sustainable gasoline in the UK, with the results set to be revealed before the end of the year.
Sustainable liquid fuel is an umbrella phrase used to cover fuels made from reduced amounts of fossil-derived ingredients, essentially cutting down on the use of first-generation oil that’s just come out of the ground. There are two main chemistry bases currently at work – bio-gasoline and e-fuels, which both involve recycling carbon from our surroundings.
The bio-gasoline route involves reusing ‘second-generation’ waste, including straw and other by-products, which wouldn’t otherwise be suitable for consumption. The ethanol they produce is degassed, leaving only hydrogen and carbon, which is used to make fuel that any ICE car can use. An example of this is Coryton’s SUSTAIN Classic fuel, which become publicly available in June.
The e-fuel route, meanwhile, is to mechanically extract carbon from the atmosphere, and get the hydrogen by splitting water using electrolysis. This method is compelling for the long term due to the abundance of CO2 in the atmosphere but requires plentiful renewable electricity to properly facilitate it. Porsche, in partnership with Highly Innovative Fuels, ExxonMobil and Siemens Energy, opened its e-fuels pilot plant in Chile at the end of 2021.
Sustainable fuels are key to the future of the historic sector, as Guy Lachlan, HCVA director and chair of the sustainability advisory group, explained at the recent HCVA Trade Members’ Insight Day. “A route to sustainability is core to whether we have a classic car sector in the future, or not. So we have to have a least a roadmap to get to sustainable, net-zero future.
“Electric conversions aren’t the answer to a lot of these classic vehicles,” he added. “These vehicles aren’t really about transportation, they’re about preserving our industrial heritage. And when you’re preserving heritage, you have to do what you can to keep it in its original state and that means keeping the internal combustion engine. And that means we have to have a way of obtaining liquid fuels going forward.”
Guy spoke about the confusion raising from what is a fast-developing arena with many varied processes. “The chemistry around these things is really cutting edge and what is possible today wasn’t available on the open market just a few months ago.
“There are significant technical hurdles which somebody will overcome and I’m absolutely certain that what becomes the final answer for sustainable liquid fuels hasn’t been invented. It will come, but at the moment it is not clear. There are competing claims being made, and there are different words being used, and there are all kinds of different price points for products that exist. It’s impossible for the average car user to make any kind of educated decision about what it is they are buying. It’s important we address that.
Guy also warned about the dangers of overpromising with sustainable fuels. “To be 100 per cent sustainable, you want no fossil-derived ingredients at all,” he explained. “The terms zero fossil and sustainable are used pretty much interchangeably, and it’s wrong they are as they don’t mean the same thing. So the market already is getting a little bit confused.
“It’s very important that we demystify what is going on in the sustainable fuel market so that we don’t get caught in a similar situation to ‘Dieselgate’ a few years ago. My worry is, if we allow this unclear picture in the sustainable liquid fuel market to continue, then we risk losing the position we are building up.”
Star ratings: demystifying sustainable fuels
The HCVA’s answer is to launch a transparent, open-source sustainability rating for all sustainable fuels available in the UK. It hopes this will help inform users as to what they are buying, and help inform the industry as to what they’re using. It also hopes it will help to drive up the sustainability of the products available.
Manufacturers of the fuels will complete questionnaires relating to their processes and approvals, and details specific to the product they are selling. As far as it can, it will use information that is independently verified, published and accredited.
If anyone chooses not to engage, an independent verification body will do the assessment so that every fuel is recorded. The results from the questionnaires will then be converted to a star rating. Detailed results will be available to all HCVA members, and the star rating will be available to everyone. “The idea is that we can show people who don’t have the time to do the work themselves how sustainable each one is in comparison,” said Guy. “They can then make a decision about what it is they want to spend their money on.”
The other hope is that by taking the lead and striving to demystify the market, awareness of sustainable liquid fuels will gain traction and act as lever for government support towards development and uptake, plus a potential break on duty.
Questionnaires will be sent out in the next couple of weeks, and the initial publication of results is expected before the end of the year. For more details on the HCVA, visit hcva.co.uk
Plant-based petrol designed for classic cars
Words: Simon Jackson
Pioneering renewable fuel specialist, Coryton, launched the UK’s first publicly available sustainable fuel in June 2023. The SUSTAIN Classic range is specially formulated for classics, and allows regular combustion-engined vehicles to be fuelled by environmentally friendly plant-based petrol without the need for engine modifications. It’s the first time that members of the public have been able to purchase the drop-in replacement fuel, which offers a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil-based equivalents.
Created in Coryton’s state-of-the-art UK laboratory, the specially formulated fuel is a direct replacement for forecourt petrol and is safe for use in modern vehicles too. It’s formulated using advanced second-generation biofuel manufactured from agricultural waste, including straw and other by-products, which wouldn’t otherwise be suitable for consumption. Coryton’s first fuel in the SUSTAIN range was released last year; with SUSTAIN Racing proving its worth on gruelling events such as the Dakar Rally.
Three versions of SUSTAIN Classic are available; Super 80, Super 33, and Racing 50. Super 80 contains at least 80 per cent renewable content saving more than 65 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions compared with fossil fuels, and is priced from £4.65 per litre. Super 33 contains at least 33 per cent renewables, cutting more than 25 per cent of gases, and costs from £3.80 per litre. Both are rated to 98RON, the equivalent of traditional Super Unleaded, and contain a bio-ethanol content of less than one per cent. Finally, Racing 50 is a high performance fuel rated to 102RON, making it ideal for high octane applications including racing vehicles. Containing at least 50 per cent renewables, it saves more than 35 per cent of gases and costs from £5.24 per litre.
CEO at Coryton, Andrew Willson, said: “We believe that SUSTAIN Classic is the world’s first sustainable fuel catering for classic vehicles, providing a credible and convenient way to run vintage vehicles without the need for fossil fuels. It’s fully certified, tested, and developed right here in the UK at our world-class blending facility.
“It’s estimated that there are almost half a million classic cars in the UK, each one with its own unique purpose, build and history. By creating a collection of second-generation biofuels that are compatible with their needs, as well as those of other vintage vehicles, we hope to provide these much-loved motors with a more sustainable future and preserve them for years to come.”
Although the fuels are not yet 100 per cent sustainable, Business Development Director at Coryton, David Richardson, believes they are a significant step in the right direction. “Every kilogram of CO2 we avoid adding to our atmosphere, by replacing fossil fuel with sustainable fuel, is a win. We don’t instantly have to go for the full switch to start making a genuine impact.
“The availability of true fossil free fuel components is limited,” he added. “So, we’re setting truthful and realistic goals, producing fuels that have a meaningful impact whilst meeting the demands of the user. While we could use ‘mass balancing’ techniques to certify this fuel as 100 per cent, we believe that it is important to be open about technology readiness and traceability. The industry will get there with the right support – which is why we think it’s important to start getting these products into the hands of consumers so they can see how easy and effective the switch could be.”
The fuels have already been used extensively. At the recent Rally for The Ages event held at Bicester Heritage, over 70 cars used the Super 80 fuel to complete the course. It was also made available to those participating at the Flywheel 2023 event.
SUSTAIN Classic is currently available from distributor and launch partner Motor Spirit at Bicester Heritage, with more stockists set to be added across the UK.