Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Project description

The transport of passengers and goods driven by fossil fuels contributes significantly to climate change through CO2 emissions. However, the predominantly used gasoline and diesel fuels may also be produced as renewable fuels - so-called “reFuels” - from non-fossil carbon sources such as biogenic residues in combination with direct conversion of CO2 and renewable hydrogen, and thus may help protect global climate.

The two-year project “reFuels – Rethinking Fuels”, with partners from science and industry, studies and demonstrates the feasibility as well as the opportunities and risks associated with these fuels for society, industry, and the environment, taking into account the sustainability of raw materials, synthesis, and use. It analyzes processes for producing gasoline and diesel fuels from sustainably available raw materials such as plant parts on a large scale. The project also examines how regenerative fuels affect the pollutant emissions of existing fleets and the function of vehicles and individual components.

ITAS collaborates with partners on the project’s so-called Cluster C “Technology Partnership reFuels” and is involved in the following research activities:

  • Systems analysis: In the area of systems analysis, the fuel route is analyzed based on current studies in the context of possible energy scenarios. One of the aims is to identify the potentials and obstacles of the fuel route, the conditions of implementation as well as steering instruments, in particular transport policy instruments to promote the fuel route. Based on a comparative analysis, the opportunities and limitations of the reFuels route are identified; on the other hand, the systemanalytical assessment serves as an important input for the involvement of civil society in the stakeholder participation process.
  • Sustainability assessment: The sustainability assessment of the reFuels process chains is based on an established concept according to which three dimensions or pillars of sustainability are distinguished: environment, economy, and society. The sustainability assessment includes the level of the process chains of individual technologies as well as repercussions at the energy and transport system level. The process chains are analyzed in particular for the environmental and economic pillars using the life cycle approach (i.e., taking into account as many of the main processes as possible of fuel production and use upstream and downstream processes). The environmental assessment is carried out using life cycle assessment (a “technoecological” assessment). Social aspects are treated accordingly, as far as the methods available permit. Key findings of the techno-economic assessment are investment and operating costs differentiated by components that are relevant for potential investors and the industrial companies involved. The main results of the environmental assessment, and of particular importance for the general public, are the potentials for reducing environmental impacts of the reFuels concepts compared to other established and innovative fuel and drive concepts.
  • reFuels and civil society: The transformation of the energy and transport system towards climate protection is a societal task in which all relevant groups and stakeholders need to contribute. The positions of selected key stakeholders in the fields of economy, science, and politics are analyzed in order to identify possible acceptance problems at an early stage and take appropriate planning, design, participatory, or communicative measures. On this basis, expert workshops will be held to explore similarities and differences in assessments of the fuel route. The results may serve as a guide for the development of a generally accepted strategy for the societal transition from conventional fuels to reFuels.


Nabitz, L.; Scheer, D.
Synthetic fuels at the doorstep? German stakeholder positioning and narratives towards efuels.
2020. 24th 24th REFORM Group Meeting "How to reach Carbon Neutrality/Climate Neutrality?" (2020), Raitenhaslach, Germany, August 24–28, 2020 
Nabitz, L.; Scheer, D.
Narratives in the future discourse on synthetic fuels – a stakeholder-focused content analysis.
2020. EU-SPRI Conference: Session "Forward-Looking Activities and STI Policies” (2020), Online, June 5, 2020 
Scheer, D.
Die Energiewende – Eine soziotechnische Herausforderung.
2020. Energy System for the Future – Innovative Lösungen für die Energiewende. Thementag des KIT-Business-Clubs (2020), Online, November 26, 2020 
Conference Papers
Toedter, O.; Wagner, U.; Koch, T.; Dahmen, N.; Pitter, S.; Sauer, J.; Scheer, D.
Sector coupling established by the technology partnership reFuels - rethinking fuels.
2019. 12. International Colloquium Fuels, Esslingen, 25 - 26 Juni 2019, 5–10, Technische Akademie Esslingen (TAE) Full textFull text of the publication as PDF document
Nabitz, L.; Scheer, D.
Futuring sector coupling: Conceptualizing pathways by scientific disciplines.
2019. 4. Internationale TA-Konferenz (2019), Bratislava, Slovakia, November 4–6, 2019 
Scheer, D.
Good Governance der Bioökonomie: politische, marktliche und gesellschaftliche Herausforderungen.
2019. Landesstrategie Nachhaltige Bioökonomie Baden-Württemberg, Sitzung des Arbeitskreises 4: Vernetzung und Kommunikation (2019), Stuttgart, Germany, February 19, 2019 


Dr. Dirk Scheer
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-22994