BMW is investing in Prometheus Fuels, a company that plans to remove carbon-dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and convert it into gasoline.
Prometheus plans to begin selling its fuel at gas stations later this year, at a price comparable to conventional gasoline, BMW said in a press release Tuesday. Prometheus also plans to make diesel and jet fuel, according to the FAQ section of its website.
The investment comes through the automaker's BMW i Ventures investment arm. Prometheus said the automaker is leading a $12.5 million funding round. Although the exact amount hasn't been disclosed, it's likely a significant portion of that.
Prometheus carbon-neutral fuel
While BMW remains committed to electric cars, executives believe synthetic fuels will help lower overall emissions more quickly.
"The average car stays on the road for over eight years; meaning that even if the whole world switched to buying 100% electric cars tomorrow, it would still take almost a decade for today's internal-combustion engines to be off the road," Greg Smithies, partner at BMW i Ventures, said in a statement.
Prometheus' synthetic gasoline is a zero net carbon fuel, meaning it does not add any extra carbon to the atmosphere. It still produces CO2 when burned in an internal-combustion engine, just like conventional gasoline. Because it's made from CO2 already in the air, those emissions are effectively canceled out, in theory at least.
2020 BMW M2 CS
As we've covered before, carbon neutral doesn't assure that the process is efficient, or even clean by other environmental criteria.
Still, some automakers are optimistic about synthetic fuels. In April, McLaren COO Jens Ludmann said the company was looking into synthetic fuels as a possible alternative to battery-electric cars.
It's easy to see the appeal of synthetic fuels. Prometheus claims its fuel will work in any existing gasoline car without modification, so it promises to lower the emissions of cars already on the road with less effort than a wholesale conversion to electric power.
United States Department of Energy research into this area has found many challenges to scale up production, although companies might try such methods on a smaller scale.
Meanwhile, BMW recently re-upped its commitment to electric vehicles, confirming that a planned rollout of new models will continue on schedule. While the U.S. will no longer get the Tesla Model Y-sized iX3, the iNext and i4 models are still on the way.