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Realising methanol’s potential as a motor fuel

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.

What is the aim of this project? 

The purpose of this project, under the AMF TCP, is to explore methanol’s potential as a motor fuel, which would have great economic and environmental benefits while helping to ensure that energy is always available. It is already economically viable to produce methanol from fossil resources. This has prepared the ground for producing methanol from renewable resources in the future.

The project assesses the use of methanol in different transport sectors, including road vehicles and in ships. It identifies barriers to commercialisation of methanol and provides suggestions on how to overcome these barriers.

How could this project be explained to a high school student? 

Methanol is a multipurpose fuel that can be used on its own, blended with other fuels or for producing fuel additives, which improve engine performance. It can also be used in fuel cells, which convert energy to electricity. Several kinds of internal combustion engine can use methanol in passenger cars, light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as in ships. Fuel blends with a low level of methanol require no adjustments to the existing fuel infrastructure – the equipment and systems needed to produce, distribute, store and dispense fuels. For higher methanol blends and straight methanol, adjustments to the existing fuel infrastructure are well known.

Nowadays, methanol can be produced from natural resources and waste streams, or by combining renewable hydrogen and recycled CO2, yielding less greenhouse gases than producing methanol from fossil fuels. Renewable methanol can be produced on an industrial scale at a cost similar to that of established renewable fuels, if suitable resources are used.

Fossil fuels need to be replaced now to achieve a carbon neutral world in the near future – a world in which a balance is struck between emitting carbon (greenhouse gases) and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Renewable methanol offers a clean, sustainable alternative. Production capacity of sustainable renewable methanol has to increase.

How could this project help to achieve climate and energy goals? 

  • The efficiency of internal combustion engines that use methanol as fuel could be increased to achieve maximum energy savings. Using methanol could significantly increase the efficiency of existing engines.
  • In refitted engines, straight methanol burns with very low emissions of particles and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants that harm human health. Future high efficiency combustion engines could reduce pollutants further.
  • Renewable methanol could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it is produced using suitable resources like waste wood and cultivated wood.

What government policies could advance this project? 

  • Engaging with stakeholders and designing a roadmap.
  • Putting in place the necessary regulations, laws, standards and technical instructions.
  • Removing technical barriers, and ensuring fuel and vehicle availability.
  • Communicating clearly to increase visibility and enabling methanol demonstration projects.
Methanol testing vehicle

Methanol testing vehicle: a Peugeot 108 fuelled with M85 blend (85% methanol, 15% gasoline) ©2019 DTI Kim Winther


  • Danish Technological Institute (Denmark)
  • Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum | German Biomass Research Centre (Germany)
  • Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe | Agency for Renewable Resources (Germany)
  • Lund University (Sweden)
  • Swedish Transport Administration (Sweden)
  • Technion (Israel)
  • VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Finland)


  • Methanol Institute (United States)
  • Danish Technological Institute (Denmark)
  • Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) via FNR (Germany)
  • Swedish Transport Administration (Sweden)

Expected project duration

November 2018 – June 2020

About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Advanced Motor Fuels (AMF TCP)

Created in 1984, the AMF TCP aims to advance the understanding and appreciation of the potential of advanced motor fuels to boost transport sustainability. The programme achieves this mission by providing sound information and technology assessments to facilitate informed and science-based decisions about advanced motor fuels at all levels of decision-making.