CO2-emitting cars

EU drafts plan to allow e-fuel combustion engine cars: What it means and what’s next?

In an attempt to resolve a dispute with Germany over the EU’s phasing out of combustion engine cars from 2035, the European Commission has drafted a plan allowing sales of new cars with internal combustion engines that run solely on climate-neutral e-fuel.

According to a draft proposal seen by Reuters on Tuesday, a new type of vehicle category in the European Union could be created for cars that can only run on carbon-neutral fuels.

What are E-Fuels?

E-fuels, or electro fuels, are synthetic fuels that are made by synthesizing captured carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and hydrogen produced using CO2-free electricity. They are produced using renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, and are designed to be carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative, as the carbon dioxide emissions captured during the manufacturing process offset the emissions from their use as a fuel.

E-fuels can be used in existing internal combustion engines without the need for modifications, making them a potential alternative to traditional fossil fuels in sectors that are difficult to electrify, such as aviation, shipping, and heavy industry.

However, e-fuels are not yet produced at scale and are currently more expensive to produce than traditional fossil fuels. Researchers and companies are working on developing cost-effective methods to produce e-fuels to meet the growing demand for low-carbon fuels.

What does the proposal say?

Under the draft proposal, cars that can run only on e-fuels will need to use technology that will prevent them from driving if other fuels are used. This would include a fueling inducement system that would prevent the car from starting if it was powered by non-carbon-neutral fuels.

The proposal could provide a path for automakers to continue selling combustion engine vehicles after 2035 when a planned EU law would prohibit the sale of new CO2-emitting vehicles.

This will give them more time to develop their electric vehicles and make them more affordable.

What does the e-fuel compromise mean for Germany?

After months of negotiations, EU countries and the European Parliament agreed on the law last year to phase out the sale of new CO2-emitting cars from 2035. However, the German Transport Ministry filed last-minute objections to the law, just days before a final vote that would have allowed it to take effect.

The Ministry’s main demand is that the EU allows the sale of new electric vehicles after 2035.

The talks are ongoing between the Commission and the German authorities, and any proposal on registering e-fuel cars would only be made after the combustion engine phase-out law was finally adopted.

According to an EU official, any proposal for registering e-fuel vehicles would be made only after the combustion engine phaseout law was finally passed.

Germany’s Transport Ministry said talks with the Commission about the planned phase-out of new combustion engines in 2035 were progressing, but it couldn’t say when an agreement might be reached.

E-fuel combustion engine as a solution

The proposal to allow e-fuel combustion engine cars in the EU could offer a solution to cut carbon emissions in sectors that are hard to electrify, such as aviation, shipping, and heavy industry.

However, it is unclear whether this proposal will be adopted because talks between the Commission and German authorities are still ongoing, and any proposal on registering e-fuel vehicles would be made only after the combustion engine phase-out law is finally adopted.