If you were betting on a country to take issue with the EU’s directive on the sale of zero-emission cars only from 2035, Germany would've been a shoo-in. Not just because they have a significant say in the bloc, but because its car industry has been (and continues to be) responsible for some of the very best combustion engines ever. And while some manufacturers are all-in on electric, the fact that a company like Porsche has invested so heavily in an efuels plant in South America suggests EV is not a basket they necessarily want to put all their eggs in just yet.
The alternative fuels argument is the one currently being put forward by German Transport Minister Volker Wissing, according to Reuters. As it stands, there’s a non-binding part of EU law that a proposal will be made on cars being sold with carbon-neutral fuels post-2035 ‘if this complies with climate goals’. Goodness knows how on earth that’ll be settled upon - imagine the investment is made in sustainable fuels, only for a proposal to be made a decade from now that says anything with tailpipe emissions can’t be sold? It’d be carnage. It’s clarity on this matter that Wissing is said to be seeking: he wants a clearer assurance on whether synthetic fuels will be able to be used post-2035 in new cars, and what exactly the proposal would look like.
There’s support for his viewpoint, too, with Italy’s Energy Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin suggesting that his country’s position is that EVs “cannot be the only solution for the future”. It rather goes without saying that we’d love to see every avenue pursued to keep engines relevant. Think how diverse the new car lineup is right now, with mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids, petrols, diesels and EVs out there; different powertrains suit different lifestyles and different interests, just as they will a decade from now. A multi-faceted approach seems like the right path.
Of course, plenty of others are firmly in the EV-only camp: Audi won’t build a combustion engine after 2033, and Germany’s own environment ministry backs the deal. Which must make for some tense meetings with transport right now. For the moment the EU seems committed to its original stance - delaying a vote this late is very unusual - but rubber-stamping the lawmakers' deal is apparently not going to be as simple as all that. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, will attend a German cabinet meeting this weekend - this is undoubtedly going to come up in discussion. To be a fly on the wall in that meeting, eh? For now at least, the combustion engine door remains propped open.
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