European Union (EU) countries have granted their definitive endorsement to a groundbreaking law prohibiting the sale of new CO2-emitting cars by 2035. The approval of this law by EU energy ministers represents the commencement of Europe’s primary climate policy concerning automobiles.
Under the new legislation, all newly manufactured cars sold in the EU must have zero CO2 emissions by 2035. Their CO2 emissions must be 55% lower by 2030, relative to 2021 levels. These objectives aim to expedite the decarbonization process of new car fleets in Europe.
The adoption of this law is a significant step in the EU’s efforts to become a carbon-neutral region by 2050. Transportation is responsible for nearly a quarter of the bloc’s total emissions. It is one of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed to reach this goal. By implementing this regulation, the EU is signaling its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector must move towards cleaner, more sustainable alternatives.
E-fuels as an exemption to the ban on combustion engine cars
After Germany demanded an exemption from the ban, the European Commission has committed establishment of a legal pathway for the sale of new cars that solely operate on e-fuels to continue beyond 2035.
E-fuels are produced by combining captured CO2 emissions with hydrogen produced using CO2-free electricity. Since the CO2 released during combustion is offset by the CO2 removed from the atmosphere during the production of the fuel, e-fuels are considered to be carbon-neutral.
Debate among EU countries on the feasibility of the CO2-emitting law
On Tuesday, Poland cast a negative vote on the legislation, while Italy, Bulgaria, and Romania abstained. Poland claimed that the law was impractical and could result in higher car prices, whereas Italy wanted biofuel-powered cars to be included in the exemption list for the 2035 phase-out.
Nevertheless, the EU policy was initially anticipated to render it infeasible to sell combustion engine cars in the EU starting in 2035. The exception provided to Germany, on the other hand, could potentially be a savior for conventional vehicles, even though e-fuels are still not being produced on a massive scale.
Car manufacturers’ stance on e-fuels and battery-electric vehicles
Porsche and Ferrari are two of the notable backers of e-fuels. They perceive it as an alternative means of avoiding bulky batteries, which can significantly impact the weight and performance of their vehicles. E-fuels have the potential to address this issue while also being carbon-neutral, making them an appealing option for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
However, other major automakers, such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford, have placed their bets on battery-electric vehicles as the primary means of achieving decarbonization in the transportation sector. They view this technology as a promising way to curb emissions and are directing substantial resources toward its development.
Some industry players had implored EU countries not to backtrack on the proposed 2035 phase-out of new gasoline and diesel vehicles, expressing concern that exemptions for e-fuels could slow down the shift to battery-electric cars. They fear that it could be interpreted as an indication that there is still a future for combustion engines, which could undermine the push toward more sustainable transportation alternatives.
Therefore, while some automakers may see e-fuels as a potential solution for certain challenges related to the adoption of electric vehicles, the majority of the industry is committed to investing in battery-electric technology to decarbonize the transportation sector fully.
EU energy ministers extend gas use target, discuss nuclear energy’s role in renewable targets
EU energy ministers made several important decisions on Tuesday. The final approval of the landmark law to ban the sale of new CO2-emitting cars by 2035 is one of them. Another of these decisions was to extend a voluntary target to reduce gas use by 15% for 12 months. This measure was taken to prepare for the next winter. Then the supply of Russian gas is expected to be scarce. This move will help reduce dependence on gas and increase the use of renewable energy sources.
However, there was also an ongoing dispute over whether nuclear energy should count towards EU renewable energy targets. Some EU officials expected the ministers to address this issue adequately as it has divided countries and could potentially delay the EU’s main renewables policy. The decision on this matter is critical as it will affect the EU’s progress toward its target of reaching a 32% renewable energy share by 2030.
Will meeting renewable targets be successful just by phasing out CO2-emitting cars?
The EU’s landmark law to phase out CO2-emitting cars in 2035 with an exemption for e-fuels reflects a growing recognition of the urgency to tackle climate change. While some EU countries and car manufacturers are divided on the feasibility of the law, it signals a strong commitment towards a greener future.
The discussion around nuclear energy’s role in renewable targets highlights the ongoing debate on how best to achieve climate goals, but the agreement to extend the gas use target shows a willingness to work towards solutions in the short term.