As we approach an electrified world, the question of what to do with millions of gasoline-powered cars remains. New ones being built today will remain on the road for decades to come, and even if every last commuter is phased out it would be nice if classic cars don’t become paperweights once fossil fuel is no longer being brewed. Enter sustainable fuels, also called eFuels, which functions exactly the same as gasoline, but is manufactured synthetically with no oil drilling, and can be put in internal combustion engines with no modification.
As proof of concept, Mazda recently drove a bone stock MX-5 roadster 1,000 miles around the U.K., visiting famous race tracks and setting record laps for alternative fuel cars. The Miata was powered exclusively Sustain, an eFuel made by a British company named Coryton. Sustain was created entirely from agricultural waste, Mazda says, using straw and crop byproducts unfit for consumption.
The weeklong roadtrip consisted of stops at Anglesey Circuit in Wales, Oulton Park in England, Knockhill in Scotland and Kirkistown in Northern Ireland. Even including the pace-setting laps, the Miata returned 45.6 mpg. By contrast, the same 2.0-liter Miata is rated at a combined 40.9 mpg in the U.K. driving cycle, sans hot laps. In the U.S, the Miata is rated at just 29 combined mpg. Perhaps just as importantly, the Mazda was able to perform with no impact on performance or reliability.
Mazda is the first OEM to join the European Union’s eFuel Alliance, an organization promoting sustainable fuels for a variety of applications, from maritime to aviation. Companies like Porsche are also doing their own research into in eFuels.
Mazda says it’s still committed to electrification, but is exploring alternative fuels in order to accelerate carbon neutrality. Ninety percent of the cars on U.K. roads are still fossil fuel burners, and if they can be switched to eFuels while waiting to be replaced by EVs, that’s a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. Back in Japan, Mazda is campaigning a Mazda Demio running on microalgae-derived biodiesel in the Super Taikyu endurance series, the same one in which Toyota runs a hydrogen-combustion GR Corolla.
“Drop-in sustainable fuels are ready now for everyday road cars with internal combustion engines,” said Coryton director David Richardson. “The UK alone currently has 36 million combustion engine cars on the roads that we could be reducing the emissions from right now. The product and technology is ready to go – the industry just needs support to help scale up operations.”