EU and Germany find compromise on e-fuels and combustion engine ban

Max McDee, 25 March 2023

It looks like Germany’s last-minute tantrum, which resulted in a vote over the 2035 combustion engine ban being suspended, was nothing but a clever tactic that paid off. Just to recap, the long-awaited 2035 effective ban on sales of new gasoline and diesel-powered passenger vehicles, has been thrown into disarray at the final vote when Germany refused to support it citing various concerns.

While the 2035 ICE ban has been in the works for years, it has been negotiated by all the EU states and approved by their parliaments - including the German parliament - the final vote was seen as a formality. Unfortunately, Germany had different plans.

EU and Germany find compromise on e-fuels and combustion engine ban

Led by the German Transport Ministry, controlled by the Free Democratic Party, the German delegation demanded legal guarantees for a loophole that would enable the use of e-fuels and sales of new cars powered by those, after 2035.

This is a very important issue for German automakers, there is no doubt. The country relies on the automotive industry and despite it being fairly advanced, it is struggling to keep up with the relentless transition to electric mobility. Keeping the manufacturing of combustion engines and using e-fuels means keeping the industry going and giving it more time to catch up to the rest of the world.

The issue here is that e-fuels are being portrayed as green fuels as if they do not pollute and are often touted as a better solution than electric vehicles. While on paper, e-fuels emit less CO2, they still pollute. Any combustion results in pollutants and focusing only on CO2 leads to technical workarounds, CO2 offsetting, and other tactics that simply make no difference to the air that we breathe every day.

EU and Germany find compromise on e-fuels and combustion engine ban

The idea behind the 2035 ICE ban was always to stop the tailpipe pollutants. Yes, the timing is not the best, the targets are ambitious, and in fairness - battery-powered cars are yet not all they cracked up to be. But when you walk with your kids to school, or you walk to the shops - that’s when you can tell the difference between fumes and clean air.

Germany’s youngest party can congratulate itself as the EU bent to its will and both sides found a compromise. The EU agreed to create a separate vehicle category for cars using e-fuels. This category will be integrated into current Euro 6 regulations and later will become part of the 2035 phase-out schedule.

EU and Germany find compromise on e-fuels and combustion engine ban

Looking at what the German politicians claim to be a victory, it hardly makes any sense. They argued for nearly a month over a clause to have the e-fuels added to the phase-out schedule - which technically means they failed to achieve what they so badly wanted, all they did was kick the can down the road. While the taxpayers paid for it.

The wider issue here is that the e-fuels technically don’t yet exist. The technology used to produce them is low-carbon and not zero-carbon. They pollute as they are being burned and there is a good chance they will be prohibitively expensive - that’s if mass production is at all possible. To top it off, German automakers aren’t interested in e-fuels except for Porsche, which wants to experiment with them. The Audi boss already said that they don’t care.

EU and Germany find compromise on e-fuels and combustion engine ban

This storm in a glass of water was nothing more than posturing, it was local points scoring for German politicians who not only can’t read the room but simply don’t care about the room. In the end, people will vote with their wallets as they always do.

Regulations or not, people want electric cars not because they save the planet. They want them because they represent new, better technology, they are quiet, in most cases are cheaper to run, and have the potential to last much longer. If only they were cheaper to buy…



Reader comments

This is no good. We all need better breathable air. Those uber rich people just ignore us as always.

  • Anonymous

and for the adults ... faster making babies

"If only they were cheaper to buy." There are much more issues with current EVs than the price - most of them are still badly designed leading to worse alternatives in terms of driving, comfort, packaging, weight, size, cooling, heating ...



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