Game over for the combustion engine in Europe

June 30, 2022

T&E hails huge step forward in fights against climate change and air pollution

EU governments have confirmed the 2035 end date for sales of combustion engine cars and vans. T&E said the decision is an important step on the way to a historic law to cut emissions from new vehicles by 100%. Governments will soon begin negotiations with MEPs on the final law, but the outcome is a foregone conclusion following the European Parliament’s vote in favour earlier this month.

The phase-out will make a significant dent in Europe’s biggest and most stubborn source of emissions: transport. Cars alone are responsible for 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. 

Governments came onboard with the EU Commission’s phase-out plan despite an unprecedented lobbying effort from some automakers, engine suppliers and the oil industry. The death knell for the combustion engine also comes as Europe struggles to end its oil dependence on Russia. Transport consumes 65% of oil in Europe, almost all of which is imported, but the EU decision will cut its financial contributions to repressive regimes and end the headache of high petrol prices for motorists.

“European governments have taken the historic decision to end the sale of polluting cars,” said Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and e-mobility at T&E, said: “Transport is the largest source of emissions and cars are the biggest part of the problem. Today is a huge step forward for the climate fight, but also for air pollution and making electric vehicles more affordable.”

T&E said governments’ request for the EU Commission to make proposals involving alternative fuels – such as e-fuels – is a distraction. The EU and national governments should be focusing on rolling out charging infrastructure and preparing the workforce for the transition to zero-emission vehicle production.

Cars powered by e-fuels emit significantly more CO2 than battery electric vehicles over their lifecycle and pump out as much toxic NOx emissions as petrol vehicles. Synthetic fuels will also be far more expensive for drivers than BEVs and are a far less efficient use of renewable electricity than direct electrification.

“The end of the combustion engine is great news for the climate,” Julia Poliscanova said. “But new proposals on fuels are a diversion. Let’s not waste any more time on e-fuels and instead focus on rolling out charging, re-skilling workers for the electric transition and responsibly sourcing material for batteries.”

EU governments will now enter into negotiations with the European Parliament on the final law. T&E called on the incoming Czech presidency of the EU Council to prioritise giving industrial certainty to everyone by reaching an agreement without delay.

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