Going green for the future
For a successful energy transition, it is necessary to have pioneering technologies and engaged people. Some of these have come together in the new Directorate “Mobility and New Energies” at TotalEnergies. The team has nothing less in mind than transforming TotalEnergies into one of the leading providers for renewable energy and alternative fuels.
A TotalEnergies multi-energy service station in 2035: Inside the Bonjour Shop you can find a trucker eating an organic Schnitzel, after having filled his truck with LNG, meaning liquefied natural gas with an admixture of biogas. Many cars drive up get natural gas, biogas and biofuels or to charge electricity from an electric charging station. At the fuel pumps, customers can choose from a wide range of low emission options like never before. The renewable energy comes from power-to-gas stations or from biogas plants with organic farming. TotalEnergies gets the necessary electricity for production from solar and wind energy.
This is a glimpse of how the future might look like, according to the Mobility and New Energies Directorate. Jan Petersen, who is heading the newly created division at TotalEnergies in Germany, does not rely on one dominant type of sustainable energy, but on a broad mix. "I am convinced that we will continue to have many different forms of mobility in the future," he says. “So, it is important that we as an energy company offer a broad range of options. We have the clear strategy of testing all possibilities in order to be ready for the future."
TotalEnergies’ Strategy for the future
The energy transition poses enormous challenges for the global economy: a growing number of countries is subject to stricter rules to reduce climate-damaging CO2 emissions caused by electricity and heat production, industrial plants, vehicles and other forms of energy consumption. Environmental protection leads companies to increasingly use low-emission and renewable energies. For TotalEnergies, this means that new business models are changing the traditional core business with oil and gas. "We assume that our business customers are starting to rely more on alternative fuels and renewable energies. Hence, we must provide them with the desired energies on the one hand and a suitable and attractive fuel card offer on the other. In this way, we bind these customers to our stations”, explains Jan Petersen.
In addition to electric energy, several energy sources with a low carbon footprint are already available for mobility. Vehicles can be driven with emission-free hydrogen as well as low-emission natural gas. However, battery electric cars, hydrogen cars and other forms of sustainable mobility are only slowly gaining market shares due to the lack of demand, offer and infrastructure. Electric charging stations, natural gas filling stations and hydrogen filling stations are still quite limited. The lacking demand and offers thus reinforce each other. It is actually with this double challenge that TotalEnergies' strategy for the mobility of the future starts. The new Directorate Mobility and New Energies unites the fuel card and new energy departments with the subsidiary PitPoint, which is a European leader in building up the networks of natural gas filling stations. The portfolio is completed with hydrogen stations and electric charging solutions. This bundling of competencies will enable TotalEnergies to provide customers with new energies and service from one single source.
Technologies with high potential
Right now, it is difficult to predict which of the new energies will shape the future mobility. Each of them has specific advantages and disadvantages. In Germany, the federal government has given electromobility a key position. The purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles is promoted by the government. The drive with electric batteries is regarded as being particularly environmentally friendly as it does not produce local emissions. However, due to the long charging time and the limited range of the batteries, electric cars are not yet as flexible to use as vehicles with other drives. To ensure an overall positive environmental balance, there are some economic and technological hurdles that need to be overcome. As a matter of fact, there needs to be enough renewable electricity available for charging. Furthermore, the manufacturing processes for electric batteries must become significantly more environmentally friendly as it causes high greenhouse gas emissions and uses a high amount of rare-earth metals. Some thought leaders in clean mobility therefore prefer other options. Jan Petersen has an alternative in mind: "Perhaps the hydrogen technology will be a solution in the long-term".
In this area, TotalEnergies in Germany is not only a pioneer in Europe, but also in the global company itself. In the mobility sector, hydrogen is currently primarily used for vehicles with fuel cells. The fuel cell generates the electricity that drives the car through a controlled reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. The only by-products are heat and water, but no local emissions. It would also be possible to use hydrogen as a clean fuel in internal combustion engines, but no car manufacturer currently uses this solution.
In contrast, the natural gas drive is more widespread in mobility. TotalEnergies has already built up a network of over 90 natural gas filling stations. Natural gas is used in vehicles with internal combustion engines. Either compressed natural gas (CNG) will be used, or - exclusively for trucks and buses - liquefied natural gas (LNG). Compared to petrol and diesel vehicles, natural gas vehicles emit significantly less emissions harmful to the climate and the environment. However, this form of mobility is not entirely emission-free. In addition, natural gas reserves are limited and not renewable. That is why natural gas drives are more regarded as a bridge technology.
Change in mobility
Around 47 million cars are currently registered in Germany. The Federal Government hopes that ten million electric cars will be on the road in a decade at the latest. This still leaves around 37 million vehicles, which mainly run on petrol and diesel. These conventional fuels are becoming a lot cleaner and, through the addition of biofuels or synthetic components based on green hydrogen and carbon, they have great potential for reducing greenhouse gases. Jan Petersen and his colleagues at TotalEnergies will have exciting years ahead. Technological innovations and policy changes will play a key role in changing the energy and mobility sectors. Petersen is very optimistic about the ongoing developments: “I am thrilled that I can help shape the future together with my team. There will be a lot of work, and sometimes there may be even moments of frustration in an environment that looks very sharply at what we do. But I am convinced that we will surprise our customers with many exciting ideas. "