2035 clean car deadline gains momentum after Germany declares support

March 31, 2022

Coalition government rules out loophole for e-fuels in EU car CO2 targets

Plans to sell only zero-emissions new cars in the EU from 2035 are gaining momentum after Germany said it will back the proposed deadline.

German environment minister Steffi Lemke announced the coalition government would support the EU Commission’s plan to end the sale of new cars and vans with internal combustion engines from 2035. 

“As the federal government, we all stand behind the Commission’s current proposal for the Fit-for-55 package,” Lemke said. “The CO2 fleet limit values ​​for cars and vans have proven their worth for more climate protection in transport. We therefore also support the proposal of the Commission for the CO2 fleet limit values ​​with all their design elements. Germany supports the end of internal combustion engines for cars and light commercial vehicles in the EU from 2035.”

She also ruled out any backing for a loophole that would allow cars running on e-fuels to escape the target. “Combustion engines operated with e-fuels are only an option after 2035 outside of the CO2 fleet limit values,” Lemke added.

Attention now turns to the governments which have yet to say if they’ll support the 2035 deadline, which T&E says is essential to ensure the last polluting cars are off European roads by 2050. 

In Italy, where road transport is responsible for 23% of national CO2 emissions, T&E said the 2035 deadline would give the auto industry investment certainty for its transition while citizens could free themselves from their dependence on fossil fuel transport. Veronica Aneris, director of T&E Italy, said: “The Italian government must now follow the path outlined by Germany, following up the support for the Commission’s proposal already announced last December by the Interministerial Committee for Ecological Transition (CITE). The era of the combustion engine must be brought to an end without reservation, and we must roll up our sleeves to speed up the transition to the electrification of the vehicle fleet.”

In Spain, T&E highlighted the economic and climate reasons why the government should advance the EU deadline to 2035. “Spain currently plans to do so ‘no later than 2040’, as established by the Climate Change Law,” said Carlos Rico, policy officer at T&E Spain. “But, as Europe’s second largest vehicle manufacturer, it should join Germany’s leading position in getting the EU to end the sale of new vehicles powered by diesel, petrol, hybrids and gas or e-fuel powered vehicles by 2035 at the latest.”

E-fuels, which are chemically similar to petrol and diesel and costly to produce, have been touted by the fossil fuel industry and car parts suppliers as a way to prolong the life of the internal combustion engine beyond zero-emissions targets. But lab tests commissioned by T&E confirmed e-fuels in cars will do little to alleviate the air quality problems in our cities.

They found a car running on e-petrol emits equally high levels of toxic NOx as standard E10 EU petrol and much more carbon monoxide and ammonia. Powering a car on e-fuels over five years will also cost a driver €10,000 more than running a battery electric car. And e-fuels are a far less efficient use of renewable electricity: supplying just 10% of new cars with e-fuels instead of electrifying them will require 23% more renewable electricity generation in Europe.


However, the German government also supports the Commission’s plan not to tighten the car CO2 targets that must be met before 2030. T&E said this will have the effect of both stagnating the electrification boom for the rest of the decade and blocking the EU’s bid to cut its oil dependency.

The Commission’s plan to keep the car CO2 targets the same in the 2020s will result in Europe still importing 275 million barrels of oil from Russia at the end of this decade and, in doing so, writing Putin a cheque for $34 billion every year

T&E said the cumulative payout we give for Russian oil between now and 2030 could be cut by $11 billion if EU lawmakers were to accept proposals from the European Parliament’s lead MEP, Jan Huitema, who has demanded a 75 percent cut in CO2 emissions from cars by 2030. And if lawmakers agreed to additionally require that half of all new-car sales should be EVs by 2025, the cumulative savings jump to more than $4.5 billion by 2025, reducing the demand for Russian oil by 37 million barrels.

The European Parliament and EU governments will decide their respective positions on the car CO2 rules in the coming months before finalising the law by the end of summer.


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