Powering the Future: An Introduction

Who is Dr. Wolfgang Warnecke?

Dr. Wolfgang Warnecke is the Chief Scientist of Mobility for Shell.  Wolfgang has been with Shell for over 30 years as a combustion engine engineer.

Since joining Shell, Wolfgang has gained extensive experience both in Germany and the UK as a scientist and business leader in the field of fuels and lubricants development; in engine testing and vehicle technology; in technical services for lubricants and fuels marketing. He has led both automotive fuels and lubricants development in Hamburg before global management roles in lubricants and, more recently, retail and automotive fuels development. He became a Chief Scientist in May 2011.

Wolfgang’s expertise in engine technology and automotive products has earned him extensive recognition across the automotive industry as well as by academia. He has made close to 100 publications and has a wide global network across the global automotive industry, including the motorsport industry. As an example of his involvement and expertise in global motorsport, he was previously a member of the FIA’s WEC Endurance Commission (which develops the sporting regulations for the World Endurance Championship).

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Shell and the Emission Challenge

According to Wolfgang, Shell is “focused to prepare for a ZERO EMISSION Mobility, i.e no CO2 emissions and ‘zero impact’ local (air quality related) emissions.”

To achieve this, there are three options:

  • Green electricity and battery electric vehicles

  • Using green electricity to produce green hydrogen, thus allowing all vehicles to be fueled with this green H2 by using a fuel cell to produce onboard electricity.  This would operate in the same way (with an electric motor) as an all-electric vehicles.

  • Using renewable (liquid or gaseous) fuels in combustion engines. The process is based on using green electricity to produce green hydrogen, and collecting CO2 (collected by direct air capture, producing CO then), and from this ‘syn gas’ then to produce synthetic Hydrocarbon fuels.  Wolfgang described, “We call them Power-to-Liquid, often also called e-fuel (based on green electricity). In parallel, Biofuels could be a similar (smaller scale) route. These fuels could be used then in Emission clean Internal combustion engines – starting with our vehicles as today.”

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Vision and Limitation of Electrification in Transport

The application of clean fuels to all vehicles drivetrains is proving difficult.  As Wolfgang described, “simply some technical options are, against technology as of today, unthinkable, eg. flying a 747 with batteries across the Atlantic is impossible.”

Wolfgang’s projection is that:

  • The smaller the vehicle (car) and the shorter the time used/distance traveled, the more sensible a Battery Electric car.

  • The larger the vehicle/long operation time/long distance traveled, the more important to store onboard energy (fuel) with high energy density, ie. either H2 or even better synthetic fuels are the options.

What does all of this mean?

“In short summary:

  • If we talk about commuter/City cars, most likely they especially make sense to become battery electric – as long as all electricity is renewable.

  • Longer distance cars, and especially long haul trucks may be an ideal opportunity for green H2 and fuel cells (basically batteries are too heavy and too expensive for a larger amount of electricity storage).

  • Long haul Marine and long haul flights may have no other option than to sail/fly on synthetic (or bio) fuels.”

Shell is already preparing for the long term future of transportation, with these insights eg. H2 retail stations build up in Cal., or installing charger on Shell stations already in NL or UK, as well as evaluating the syn. fuels option.

Want to Learn more about Shell and the Future of the Automobile? Don’t miss our Future of the Automobile Conference on May 3, 2019.