Lawmakers prepare to vote on 2035 deadline for polluting cars

May 31, 2022

MEPs and Ministers will also decide on higher CO2 reduction targets in the 2020s and 2030, which would ensure carmakers deliver on their electrification promises.

European governments have been reaffirming their support for a 2035 deadline for new polluting cars ahead of crucial votes by EU lawmakers next month. The governments of Germany, Italy and Spain spoke out ahead of expected decisions on the proposal in the European Parliament next week and by Environment Ministers in late June.

The German coalition government would back the European Commission’s plan, which requires all new cars and vans sold in the EU in 2035 to be zero emissions, a minister confirmed. “Our decision is to support the Commission proposal in all its elements,” said Christiane Rohleder, State Secretary at Germany’s Environment Ministry. 

She was speaking at the European Car Climate Summit, an event hosted by T&E in Madrid, which also heard from Italy’s Minister for Sustainable Transport and Infrastructure. Enrico Giovannini said the government’s inter-ministerial committee on ecological translation “made the decision a few months ago in saying that 2035 as proposed by the European Commission is fine with us”. He added that the deadline is very ambitious, especially for vans.

The minister said the Italian government’s roadmap for transport decarbonisation, known as the Stemi report, “clearly says that for cars and also for light commercial vehicles the electric solution is the best not only in absolute terms but also in relative terms.”

The Spanish government said it would support a 2035 deadline if there is a consensus among European governments. “Our own Spanish legislation set a 2040 target,” said Joan Groizard, Director General of the Spanish Institute for Energy Diversification and Savings. He added: “But what we said in the legislation is we will adapt this target to whatever happens at the European level, so obviously we’re very happy to go with that and therefore accelerate our ambition in the short and midterm to be able to meet that 2035 target.”

The phase-out date is also gaining support among automotive workers who see zero-emissions vehicles as the future of their industry. Christèle Khelf, Deputy Secretary General of the French trade union confederation CFDT FGMM, said that they were aligned with the proposals of the European Commission to go for 100% electric vehicles by 2035, which is “necessary to achieve our objectives for decarbonisation”. She added that, “the future of the automobile will be green, otherwise the automobile will have no future”.

On Tuesday (7 June), the European Parliament will decide its position on the 2035 deadline but also on earlier targets for carmakers. They will vote on more ambitious standards for carmakers in 2025 and 2030 as well as a new interim standard in 2027. T&E said greater ambition in the 2020s is essential to provide more affordable emissions-free vehicles to motorists as well as helping EU countries reduce their transport emissions.

“The EU clean car rules are driving down the costs of the electric vehicles that we need to decarbonise cars and meet our climate targets,” Alex Keynes, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said. “But the EV boom will falter for the next 10 years unless lawmakers step in with an interim target in 2027 and a more ambitious goal in 2030. Without it, Europe may not sell enough zero-emissions cars to meet its own 2030 climate goals as well as those of many EU countries.”

MEPs will also decide on a proposed loophole in the 2035 deadline for cars powered by e-fuels, which is being heavily promoted by engine-makers that want to go one selling fossil-fuel technology. Synthetic fuel would reduce the CO2 emissions of a car bought in 2030 by just 5%, on average, over its lifetime compared to fossil petrol, according to a new lifecycle analysis. A battery electric vehicle would emit 72% less over its lifecycle.

Also, tests show burning synthetic fuels will still pump toxic NOx emissions into the air, while running a car on e-fuel is far more expensive compared to an electric vehicle. Producing e-fuels is also much less efficient than powering a battery electric car. 

Opposition to a loophole has been widespread, with businesses – including Ford and Volvo Cars – and NGOs coming out against any measure that would allow combustion engines to continue to be sold. Stuart Rowley, Chair of Ford Europe, told the European Car Climate Summit: “We do not see those [e-fuels] as an alternative to full battery electric vehicles”.

EU Environment Ministers will decide their position on the new clean car rules on 28 June. The law is expected to be finalised in the autumn.

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