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  • Spain attempts to put auto industry on greener, more competitive track, but SUVs and fossil gas block the way

    The auto industry rescue plan presented by the Spanish government today is a tentative step to decarbonise the auto sector and boost electromobility, green group Transport & Environment has said. Having increased its budget to support electric vehicles from €65 million to €100 million, Spain draws from the positive examples of Germany and France in their auto recovery plans. However, €250 million will also be provided in purchase incentives for polluting combustion engine vehicles, delaying the switch to emissions-free vehicles and impeding carmakers from meeting their EU car CO2 targets.

    The plan offers a €4,000 scrappage bonus for anyone replacing a car that’s 10 years or older with an electric one worth up to €45,000. On top, it dedicates €2.19 billion to attract investment in future-proof technologies. However there are no criteria requiring this to be spent on clean technology such as batteries, e-charging points or green hydrogen. It also promises to deploy 50,000 charge points by 2023, and announces greening circulation and registration taxes.

    Isabell Büschel, Spain manager at T&E, said: “The Spanish recovery plan rightly prioritises emissions free mobility with millions to help consumers buy electric cars and billions for the industry to invest in emobility supply chains and new skills. But it fails to follow in the footsteps of Germany’s green rescue plan and allows a subsidy to prop up polluting SUVs, which must be scrapped.”

    Cars with CO2 emissions of up to 120g of CO2 per km (NEDC) would still qualify for scrappage subsidies of up to €1,000. These include popular SUVs such as the Seat Arona or Renault Captur. SUVs emit up to a fifth more CO2 emissions than comparable hatchbacks and are the second largest contributor to the rise in global CO2 emissions. T&E said that as carmakers have to meet the EU CO2 target of 95g/km or pay hefty fines, there has never been a worse time to hand out public subsidies to polluting legacy technologies. The Spanish Council of ministers, which is set to approve the plan shortly, must kick out this subsidy.

    The plan also allows subsidies for compressed natural gas (CNG) cars and trucks, treating them as a ‘clean’ technology. But fossil gas in transport emits significant levels of air pollutants that are harmful to human health and is as bad for the climate as using petrol or diesel. T&E said the Spanish government should instead support zero-emissions technologies such as battery electric cars and battery electric and hydrogen trucks.