Formic Acid as car fuel

Formic Acid as car fuel

In 2018 VoltaChem will demonstrate that the process can also be applied on an industrial scale.

Experiments have already been experimented with the conversion of CO2 into formic acid. The VoltaChem innovation program wants to scale the process to an industrial application.

Professor Dr. Wim Turkenburg is convinced that a “false mistake” is being made.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is known as greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It is less known that it can also be used as a raw material for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. In the Program VoltaChem, six partners will collaborate in a project that converts CO2 with renewably generated electricity into formic acid.
Formic Acid can be used as fuel, as a preservative in animal feed, for energy storage and as a chemical building block. The result: lower production costs, lower CO2 emissions and a contribution to the sustainable energy system of the future.

CO2 recycling

Until now, formic acid is almost exclusively produced from fossils. On laboratory scale, it has previously been shown that formic acid can also be produced using CO2 and electricity: direct electrochemical conversion of CO2.
  • Firstly, water with electricity is converted to hydrogen and oxygen
  • The hydrogen is used directly to convert the CO2 to formic acid by electricity



Industrial process

This new project sets the next step in the development towards an industrial process. At the end of 2017 an electrochemical reactor will be delivered that can produce small-scale formic acid with the use of fluctuating amounts of renewable energy (sun and wind). Based on these results, in 2018 VoltaChem will demonstrate that the process can also be applied on an industrial scale.

Carbon neutral formic acid

Using CO2 as a raw material and using renewable energy generates CO2 neutral formic acid.

Another advantage is that you can use formic acid as a liquid and relatively safe storage medium for hydrogen, for example as fuel in vehicles.

Finally, you can use formic acid to store renewable energy.

Wrong thinking

Prof. Wim Turkenburg warns that the society should be prevented to “a false mistake about this technique”:

There are many proposals for CO2 recycling. Governments are promoting it. How perfect should it be to convert CO2 into fuel by connecting the CO2 with hydrogen produced with PV or Wind Power? You could make methane (CH4) and use this gas for heating houses. You could also make methanol or formic acid and drive cars.

However, proponents of such a development make a false mistake. Due to these applications, Carbib Dioxide will still be released in the air. That is not what we intent! We must solve the climate issue in a sustainable way!

Using fossil CO2 to make fuel that you can use in households or in the transport sector, can be characterized as ghost driving on the road to zero emissions.


In order to achieve zero emission, reuse of fossil CO2 can only be allowed when the carbon in the CO2 is recorded forever. Converting it into a building material by mineralization of CO2, is a responsible route. In practice, however, almost all Carbon Dioxide will have to be collected and stored in a safe manner. Steel factories will also have to do this. In addition, one should look for other energy carriers than fossil fuels.