Audi has been quite vocal about what it considers the benefits of the natural gas-burning A3 Sportback G-Tron and, more importantly, the company's synthetic methane (E-Gas) fuel project. On the one hand, it's a very cool idea to take CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and turn it into both hydrogen and synthetic natural gas (as Audi's E-Gas plant in Werlte, Germany will start doing later this year). On the other, the G-Tron simply uses another internal combustion engine doing what ICEs do best: burn fuel. Reiner Mangold, head of sustainable product development at Audi, said today at the Geneva Motor Show that that's kind of the point.

"The main idea is to bind the CO2 and to have a future for the combustion engine, to drive the eight-cylinder for our children," he said. "The G-Tron gives you CO2 figures that are really comparable to pure electric cars."

It's a very cool idea to take CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and turn it into hydrogen and synthetic natural gas.

Citing trade secrets, Mangold would not describe exactly how the CO2 will be taken out of the atmosphere, but we do know that Audi's Wertle plant will make 1,000 tons of e-gas a year, which is enough to power 1,500 G-Trons for 15,000 miles each at a cost that is roughly three time higher than simply pumping natural gas out of the ground. The plan, still in the formulation stages, will be to pump the synthetic gas into the existing distribution network for fossil natural gas in Germany. A3 Sportback G-Tron buyers might be able to get (either buy or receive for free) an E-Gas contract that, while it doesn't actually get them E-Gas, shows that they're participating in the project. The details are still being worked out, Mangold said, but these contracts might be worth something in Germany's tax schemes and there won't be more than 1,500 such contracts available, since that's all the E-Gas that Audi can make.

Audi brought the A3 Sportback G-Tron to Geneva, and it will go on sale in Germany towards the end of the year. A bi-fuel car, the G-Tron can also burn regular gasoline. European regulations require that cars become efficient enough that they emit no more than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2020, and there is no way to do this right now using a combustion engine, Mangold said. "So we have to stop the combustion engine or we find some way to reduce the CO2, and we think this will be a good solution."

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