New cars in the parking lot. Illustrative photo.
Brussels – Italy and Germany are threatening to block the European Union's plan to ban the sale of combustion engine cars from 2035. The Union's air protection goals are thus in jeopardy. The abolition of the ban, which has already been agreed upon by the member states of the union, would thus probably be politically toxic, the website Automotive News Europe wrote today.
Member states are demanding that the European Commission (EC) present a promised proposal to exempt vehicles that use climate-neutral synthetic fuels. Poland and Hungary have also signaled opposition to the plan, which calls for carmakers to reach a zero-emissions target by 2035. The member states tentatively agreed on the plan last year.
Germany successfully lobbied for a change in the rules, on the basis of which the EC agreed to submit a proposal for the registration of vehicles that will be powered exclusively by fuel with neutral CO2 emissions after 2035 .
German Transport Minister Volker Wissing said today that the commission had not delivered the proposal, so the government in Berlin could not agree to the wider plan in a final vote by EU government ministers on March 7.
The cancellation of the deal between lawmakers and member states at this late stage would therefore likely be politically explosive, as the vote planned for next week would normally be a mere formality. A preliminary vote by EU officials on the issue, due to take place today, has been postponed until Friday.
“We need e-fuels because there is no alternative if we want to run cars in a climate-neutral way,” Wissing said in an interview on public broadcaster ARD. “Whoever is serious about climate-neutral mobility must keep all technological options open and use them,” he continued. “I don't understand the fight against the car or why people want to ban certain technologies,” he added.
The automotive industry in Germany contributes about five percent of the economy and employs more than 800,000 people. The industry also includes many specialist parts companies that have been formed for more than 100 years, supplying components for internal combustion engine cars to manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
In Italy, the automotive industry it accounts for roughly 8.5 percent of the economy. It employs approximately a quarter of a million workers.
A spokesman for the European Commission said that the transition to zero-emission vehicles is absolutely necessary to meet the EU's goal of reducing emissions by 55 percent by the end of the decade – on the way to so-called climate neutrality by mid-century. Road transport is one of the sectors with the largest carbon emissions in the EU, producing about a fifth of all emissions in the bloc of 27 member states.
Automakers are already well on their way to an all-electric future with unprecedented investment in the battery supply chain and new models. While electric car sales are increasing, concerns about inconsistent charging times and the relatively high cost of an electric car remain. Stellantis car group CEO Carlos Tavares warned of deep upheaval if people don't have access to affordable cars. Electric cars are also less complex to manufacture, leading to job cuts.
Car manufacturers have already invested billions in electrification, but their approach is different. Due to expected differences in regulation and the expansion of electromobility, German carmaker BMW is sticking to its plan to offer people around the world a range of more technologies, including cars with internal combustion engines and hydrogen cells.
Concerns about EU pressure have also appeared elsewhere – the Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton called on manufacturers in November to continue producing cars with internal combustion engines that help create quality jobs and support exports.
German minister Wissing is a member of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP). This party is also the youngest member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's three-party government coalition. Wissing's latest comments have sparked some backlash among other members of the ruling alliance.
Italy's right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni has long criticized plans to ban new cars with internal combustion engines. Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said such a plan makes no sense and threatens thousands of jobs.
“The use of clean fuels compatible with internal combustion engines will allow the transition to cleaner technologies to continue without economic impacts on citizens,” it said. in a statement from the Ministry of the Environment in Rome on Tuesday.